Hire More Heroes Act of 2015—Continuedby Senator John Cornyn
Posted on 2015-07-28
CORNYN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for
the quorum call be rescinded.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. CORNYN. Mr. President, we all know the Chamber is engaged in the passage of a multiyear highway bill--not just highways, but this deals with mass transit, transportation infrastructure in general. To me, the most important thing about what we are doing is the fact we are not going to do another temporary patch--which we have done, I am told, 33 times--but we actually are going to pass a 3-year highway bill.
To me, the best news, I would say to the Presiding Officer, is now it looks as if we have the House thoroughly engaged, so it is not just a question of this bill or nothing. Perhaps, if experience is any guide, we can come up with something even better by collaborating with our House colleagues.
I wanted to come to the floor and talk a little bit about the impact of this bill on my State, the State of Texas, because we are a fast- growing State. We have about 27 million people there now. People are moving from around the country to Texas because our economy is growing. Last year, our economy grew at the rate of 5.2 percent. To compare that to the Nation, last year the Nation's economy grew at 2.2 percent. What does that mean? That means there are a lot more jobs and a lot more opportunities, so people are literally voting with their feet, leaving the States where there are limited opportunities and coming to States such as Texas where there are more opportunities. But that means more congestion, more traffic, and more challenges when it comes to our roadways, our rural freight routes, and it means challenges for our economy.
Many States, of course, would be delighted to have the problems we are having because, frankly, people are moving away from many States, not to many States. I know the Presiding Officer's State of Oklahoma is experiencing economic growth and job growth too because we share a common interest and sector of our economy, the energy economy, which the rest of the country would do well to learn from the examples in Oklahoma and Texas as part of our economic success story.
As others have mentioned, one of the chief reasons this bill has so much enthusiasm behind it is because it gives freedom and flexibility to the States to plan for infrastructure needs in the future. It perhaps should go without saying, but a 6-month patch, if we were to kick this over until December, doesn't give anybody any certainty to plan these long-term infrastructure projects which take literally not months but years.
As I said, for a State such as Texas that is growing rapidly--by some estimates 600 people a day are moving to the State--improving our roadways and bridges is vitally important for the continued growth of our economy and increased prosperity for our people, and we have the practical challenge of handling a growing number of cars and trucks on our roads. One way this bill gives added freedom and flexibility to the States is through a provision that would help Texas and other border States meet their growing infrastructure needs, particularly at the southern border, with improvements that are not only necessary to get us and goods from point A to point B, but to keep us safe as well.
Frequently, when we talk about the border, we talk about border security. That is a very important consideration and, frankly, we have not committed the Federal resources we should to border security to make sure we know who is coming into the country and why they are here. Of course, we know that recently, even in the news, people have continued to penetrate our border, even those with criminal records, causing havoc and, indeed, committing crimes against innocent people such as occurred recently in the terrible incident that happened in San Francisco.
Our border, border infrastructure, and border security are the front lines of our defense, to keep our people safe, to regulate who comes into the country, and to make sure that only legitimate people can enter.
The question is--as one law professor recently testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, when it comes to immigration, there is really only one question: Are you going to have controlled immigration or uncontrolled immigration? It is basically that simple.
I am on the floor to talk about transportation and the importance of this bill in terms of the border infrastructure when it comes to trade and commerce, but as I mentioned, it also is an important frontline when it comes to the safety and security of the American people.
We are fortunate in Texas to be the top exporting State in the Nation. That is one of the reasons our economy has grown faster than the rest of the country. The agricultural products that are grown there, the livestock that is raised, and the manufactured goods that are made are exported to markets all around the world, which creates good jobs, well-paying jobs at home.
[[Page S6059]] It also takes good infrastructure to move more than $100 billion in exported goods from Texas to Mexico each year, supporting hundreds of thousands of jobs in Texas alone. It is estimated, when you look at the Nation as a whole, that binational trade between Mexico and the United States supports as many as 6 million American jobs. That is something we frequently overlook when we talk about our relationship with our neighbor south of the border and immigration, and that is there are many benefits to legal trade, traffic, controlled legal immigration, and, indeed, as I mentioned, $100 billion of exported goods from Texas to Mexico each year supporting hundreds of thousands of jobs.
In this bill, by allowing Texas and other border States more flexibility in long-term planning of border projects, consumers and workers can benefit as goods are shipped more efficiently back and forth. Our border infrastructure is essential to moving massive amounts of trade, which travel through our ports of entry every day. For Texas and the United States to remain competitive, the border region must have the quality infrastructure to truck, train, and ship billions of dollars' worth of goods efficiently and safely.
Doing nothing to invest in transportation at the border is not a viable option. A recent report from the Texas State Legislature found that $116 million in U.S. economic output is lost or forfeited every single minute. The trucks sit idle at the border with Mexico. They are literally frozen in place because they are bottlenecked because of archaic, antiquated infrastructure and lack of appropriate staffing at the border.
Infrastructure on the border also plays another important role, preventing things such as illicit drugs and merchandise from entering the country. In many respects, as I said, our border crossings, the technology employed there, and the professionals who work there--they are the first line of defense against bad actors who want to get into the country illegally or get contraband goods through our ports.
In Texas, better roads and bridges at the border region mean better economic opportunity and quality of life for our growing border communities. Fortunately, the border infrastructure provision in this highway bill would give the Governor in Texas and all other border States the freedom to assess the biggest transportation problems facing those States and would also provide essential tools to address them.
By dedicating funds to invest in border infrastructure projects at the discretion of State Governors, we can make sure our States have the resources they need to enhance trade and travel and to keep us safe at the same time.
This is not, of course, a new notion. Throughout my time in the Senate, I have worked with folks in Texas and elsewhere, people on both sides of the aisle and on both ends of the Capitol, to try to find ways to facilitate greater levels of legitimate commerce and travel at our Nation's ports of entry and throughout the border region.
I am thankful for making this progress in this legislation. I commend my Texas colleagues--Congressmen Will Hurd and Henry Cuellar, among others--for working with us and for introducing similar legislation on border infrastructure in their Chamber. Hopefully, as we now move from a Senate bill to a House bill that can then be reconciled in a conference committee, these important improvements will be retained and be part of a conference report.
The bottom line is that quality infrastructure and making sure our border is safe and effective is a bipartisan, bicameral issue, and one that clearly unites people in my State and across the border region of our southern States.
I am thankful to see this provision included, and I hope it gets passed soon to give our States the opportunity to dedicate even more necessary resources to the border.
This provision is an important example of the overall theme of this bill, giving the States a reliable way forward to plan for their long- term infrastructure needs. More than anything else, I believe this legislation is an investment in our future and the next generation.
I thank all of our colleagues for working with us to get this bill moving forward. We have an important vote tomorrow morning, and then we have another final passage vote, I believe, on Thursday. In the meantime, the House is going to send us a 3-month bill, which will give us the necessary time for the House then to consider their own transportation bill and then to get us to a conference where we can reconcile the differences.
As the Presiding Officer and I have discussed before in the past, if that is any indication, that will give us even greater ability to influence the ultimate outcome in a way that improves this product in a bicameral and bipartisan sort of way.
I yield the floor.
I suggest the absence of a quorum.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.