Tuesday, April 20, 2021

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Political Voices: The next big thing

Over the last two months, Speaker Pelosi has passed one large bill after another. From the federalization of state elections to immigration reform, we’ve just about seen it all.

I’m eager to move past the first 100 days of the session and hopeful we can move on to legislation that has a chance of passing in the Senate. So what’s the next big thing Congress will tackle?

At the beginning of the Congress, I was newly appointed to the Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee. T&I is known for its bipartisan work – every five years this committee tackles a highway reauthorization package, and this year will be no different. Both Republicans and Democrats have started to lay the groundwork for what’s to come. 

Yesterday, I joined Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in a committee hearing on the new administration’s priorities for the highway bill. Secretary Buttigieg highlighted the bipartisan approach the committee has taken in the past because “every citizen, regardless of political affiliation, shares the need for reliable roads.” I share that sentiment. 

But actions speak louder than words. Nancy Pelosi and the Biden Administration have shown, through legislation and executive orders, that they prioritize “environmental justice” over small business owners and rural communities. I believe there is a lot of room for environmentally-sound policies in the transportation space, but Secretary Buttigieg’s plan will have a price tag of $3 trillion. Incredibly, that’s ten times the price tag of the last five-year highway bill. 

Infrastructure is popular. So it worries me that like the last COVID package, the Biden Administration is using it to advance $2 trillion of the proposed spending is completely unrelated to roads, bridges and even broadband.

As I mentioned, the last bipartisan five-year highway reauthorization, which occurred under the Obama Administration, cost $305 billion. While hundreds of billions is by no means small, why can’t we move forward in the same, more appropriately sized manner? 

I’m hopeful we can get on track and push forward a highway bill that meets the middle of the road. We need to ensure American infrastructure stays competitive and accessible, that our permitting process is fair and certain, and that rural roads receive the updates they desperately need. 

President Biden promised unity and that he would work on behalf of all people, I hope he maintains that promise of bipartisanship as we begin our work on the reauthorization of the highway bill. It only happens every five years, we need to get it right.

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