The Highway Bill
Senator John Thune
Congressional Record: 114th Congress
July 21, 2015
Mr. THUNE. Mr. President, I will speak about the Iran nuclear agreement in just a moment. But before I do that, I will briefly talk about the legislation before us on the floor, and that is the reauthorization of the highway bill, which is something we have to do on a fairly regular basis around here. Every so many years the authority to spend out of the highway trust fund expires, and we can't fund the infrastructure needs that our country has in terms of roads, bridges, construction, maintenance, and all of those things that are so important to our competitive economy.
This week we have an opportunity to do something that hasn't been done around here in a long time, and that is to fund a multiyear highway bill. The reason that is important is because people who rely upon highway funding that comes through the highway trust fund need to be able to make plans. State departments of transportation, those who are involved in the construction, such as contractors, and all the people who are involved and the jobs that are associated with this process need the certainty that comes with a long-term bill.
Today I was told that there have been 33 short-term extensions over the last few years since the last long-term highway bill was passed, I believe, somewhere around the 2005 timeframe. I was part of that. I was a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee at the time. I worked on highway bills as far back as my days in the House of Representatives, when I served on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. This is something that we have to do here on a regular basis if we are going to ensure that we have a competitive infrastructure in this country suitable to moving people and goods in a way that keeps our economy moving forward and growing. That is why, in my view, when we have an opportunity to get a multiyear bill, we shouldn't pass on it.
If we continue to pass 6-month and 1-year extensions, all we are simply doing is kicking the can down the road. I would say that 33 short-term extensions is not a very good way to run a railroad and certainly not a very good way to run a highway program.
I know there are going to be differences. The committee that I chair, the commerce committee, was involved with marking up portions of the highway bill that pertained to highway safety and some railroad provisions and other items that would be included in this bill. We worked on that through the weekend, and I think we addressed many of the concerns that Members on both sides had, and I feel very good about where that part of the bill is. I worked as a member of the Finance Committee and tried to find ways to pay for this.
If we can get a multiyear bill in place that provides the certainty, the predictability, and the reliability that we need in our highway funding process in this country, it would be a very good thing. As we all know, it is incredibly important to economic growth and to jobs. The certainty that comes with a long-term bill is something that we all ought to strive for.
So I hope, notwithstanding the differences that exist in the vote we had earlier, that tomorrow when we take up this legislation again we will get the votes that are necessary to proceed to the bill and begin to move forward with the process in the hopes that we might get something to the House that they might be able to act on and then we can get it to the President's desk. Then, at least for the foreseeable future, we can get this issue dealt with so we don't have to come back and do this every 6 months or every 3 months or whatever those 33 extensions have consisted of over the past few years.
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