EPW Business Meeting Opening Statement

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) held a business meeting to consider a number of items: Substitute amendment to S.__, America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act; S. 1992, A bill to amend the FAST Act to repeal a rescission of funds; and 6 General Services Administration (GSA) resolutions. Below is the opening statement of Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-Del.), as prepared for delivery:

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Let me begin today by saying that – under your leadership – the members of this committee and our staffs have been hard at work on this bill for much of this year. I’m enormously proud of the commitment and unrelenting spirit of bipartisanship that have made today’s business meeting possible.

“America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act will reauthorize our nation’s surface transportation laws and pave the way for an historic $287 billion investment in our nation’s roads, highways and bridges in the years to come.

“The fact that a bill as significant as this one also happens to be bipartisan really should not come as a great surprise to anyone, because – in a greater sense – our nation’s transportation infrastructure helps bring all Americans together. Both literally and figuratively, our roads, highways and bridges connect us to one another. What we’ve sought to do in the bill before us today is to address in a meaningful way a number of serious challenges across our transportation infrastructure, challenges that include, but go well beyond, filling potholes. 

“For example, we know that the cars, trucks and vans that we drive have now become our nation’s largest source of global warming pollution. These emissions accelerate and exacerbate the effects of climate change, contributing to the increasingly extreme weather events that contribute significantly to the degradation of our roadways and bridges. Our legislation includes the first-ever climate title in a transportation bill. It calls for an investment of $10 billion over the next five years to combat climate change by reducing emissions, improving the resiliency of our transportation networks and supporting the growing market for alternative fuel vehicles.

 “Additionally, we need to do more to improve the safety of our roads. In 2017, there were more than 37,000 fatalities on our nation’s roadways. That’s a number greater than the population of either Dover, Delaware or Laramie, Wyoming. Our legislation addresses this carnage by investing more than $3 billion per year in safety improvements through existing programs. Our bill also creates and funds a new program that will compel states and cities with very high rates of pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities to make needed safety improvements.

“We have also included funding to better facilitate wildlife crossings, and reduce the risk of collisions with animals.

“Finally, and perhaps the greatest challenge of all, is that our nation’s Highway Trust Fund is operating on the brink of insolvency. The Highway account is running an $11 billion dollar annual deficit, and that deficit is growing. The truth is, not only is our Highway Trust Fund going broke—our way of paying for it is broken, too.

“Although this committee does not have jurisdiction over the revenues to pay for this bill, in the spirit of identifying a long-term fix to the solvency crisis of the Highway Trust Fund, our legislation will continue to fund the state-level Vehicle Miles Traveled pilot programs established in 2015. Our legislation also includes a national VMT pilot program, the first of its kind.

“The last 5-year reauthorization bill, the FAST Act, was largely paid for by a series of irresponsible budget gimmicks. One of those gimmicks was a rescission of $7.6 billion dollars’ worth of contract authority, set to take effect this time next year. This rescission is causing tremendous uncertainty for states, cities and businesses. We need to fix it. That’s why today we are also considering a freestanding bill to repeal this rescission. I hope that we’ll be able to pass this important fix before the start of the next fiscal year, and remove the cloud of uncertainty shrouding states as they try to plan projects for the coming year.

“I would like to conclude this opening statement by reiterating my thanks to Chairman Barrasso, to Senators Capito and Cardin, to each member of this committee and to the members of our staffs. 

I look forward to working closely in the months ahead with our colleagues on the other committees of jurisdiction in order to bring a comprehensive transportation bill to the floor next year, and to ensure that this bill is paid for in a responsible way.

“America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act will help make real the vision of a safer, better-connected, efficient and climate-friendly transportation system, one that will endure the test of time and enable America to keep up with the evolving demands of the world’s biggest economy.

 “When the voters of Great Britain unceremoniously sent Prime Minister Winston Churchill packing at Ten Downing Street following World War Two, he was asked as he left the building, ‘Mr. Churchill, for you, is this the end?’  He famously replied, ‘This is not the end. This is not the beginning of the end. This is the end of the beginning.’ And, so it is for us today. This business meeting marks the beginning of what is likely to be a journey with more than a few twists and turns.  But it’s a good beginning. One that we can be proud of. 

“I look forward to working in the months ahead with all of our colleagues, with the Members of the House, the Administration and a multitude of stakeholders to make it even better.  Carpe diem! Let’s seize the day!  Thank you all.”