Providing for Consideration of Conference Report on H.R. 22, Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015by Representative Rob Woodall
Posted on 2015-12-03
WOODALL. Mr. Speaker, by direction of the Committee on Rules, I
call up House Resolution 546 and ask for its immediate consideration.
The Clerk read the resolution, as follows: H. Res. 546 Resolved, That upon adoption of this resolution it shall be in order to consider the conference report to accompany the bill (H.R. 22) to authorize funds for Federal-aid highways, highway safety programs, and transit programs, and for other purposes. All points of order against the conference report and against its consideration are waived. The conference report shall be considered as read. The previous question shall be considered as ordered on the conference report to its adoption without intervening motion except: (1) one hour of debate; and (2) one motion to recommit if applicable.
The SPEAKER pro tempore (Rodney Davis of Illinois). The gentleman from Georgia is recognized for 1 hour.
Mr. WOODALL. Mr. Speaker, for the purpose of debate only, I yield the customary 30 minutes to the gentleman from Colorado (Mr. Polis), pending which I yield myself such time as I may consume. During consideration of this resolution, all time yielded is for the purpose of debate only.
General Leave Mr. WOODALL. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members may have 5 legislative days to revise and extend their remarks.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from Georgia? There was no objection.
Mr. WOODALL. Mr. Speaker, I confess to you, I usually use the time that the Reading Clerk is reading the rule to collect my thoughts and think about what the bill is before us today and how I am going to try to persuade my colleagues to vote ``yes.'' But we only got about 15 seconds of the Reading Clerk this morning because this rule is so straightforward and so simple.
I am thinking, why is it--because I sit on the Rules Committee. I think we do good work up there. Good work is sometimes complicated work. Why is it that the rule is so short today? And the answer is because we are in conference report season, Mr. Speaker. We are in conference report season.
We have already done the hard work in committee. We have already done the hard work on the floor. The Rules Committee has already done the hard work of sorting through dozens and dozens and dozens and dozens of amendments. The Senate has done the same hard work.
And we are now here on the conclusion of that work, on the first long-term transportation bill in more than a decade.
Mr. Speaker, Democratic administrations, Democratic Presidents, Democratic Houses, Democratic Senates have failed to do what we are doing today. Republican administrations, Republican Presidents, Republican Houses, Republican Senates have failed to do what we are doing today.
In divided government today, Mr. Speaker, I dare say my friend from Colorado didn't get everything he wanted in this bill, I certainly didn't get everything I wanted in this bill, but we are taking the first big step forward toward certainty for the American people on transportation that we have seen in more than a decade under both administrations.
Mr. Speaker, House Resolution 546 is a standard rule for consideration of a conference report to accompany H.R. 22, the FAST Act, the Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act.
I want to thank Chairman Bill Shuster for the way that he conducted this entire process. Mr. Speaker, I have the great pleasure of serving on his committee, and between his leadership, the ranking member's leadership, Mr. DeFazio, we have crafted a bipartisan, bicameral bill.
I was privileged to serve on the conference committee, Mr. Speaker, that completed this work, and it worked the way conference committees are supposed to work, I guess, because, Mr. Speaker, it is the first conference committee I have been on.
I have been here 4\1/2\ years. We don't see things get to conference that often. I was a staffer around here, chief of staff, for a decade, never saw a conference committee from that perspective.
Mr. Speaker, these things don't happen that often. They should happen more. We considered a conference committee report on education yesterday. We are doing transportation today. I think we might be on to something. I think we might be on to something. It is called doing the long, hard work, Mr. Speaker.
I don't know how many sound bites you have read about the transportation bill. I don't know how much press is being paid to this bill. It has taken not days, not weeks, not even months, but years to bring folks together around this solution, and folks have worked incredibly hard to make that happen.
It is regular order, Mr. Speaker. It is regular order. This is the way it is supposed to happen. We are not supposed to have a bill airdropped into the House of Representatives, into the Senate under a take-it-or-leave-it circumstance.
What you are supposed to have are those days, those weeks, those months, and, yes, even years of discussion and debate and moving people together, finding that common ground, finding those solutions, moving it to a conference report at the end. And that is exactly what we have done here today.
Mr. Speaker, this is a report that contains views from across this conference--Members from rural districts, Members from urban districts, Members from districts that focus on mass transportation, Members from districts that have incredible road needs.
It covers folks from the West in single-Member States, single- district States, and folks from the East, with some of the highest population densities in the country. It is an amazing accomplishment to bring all of those folks together.
I would tell you, Mr. Speaker, historically, that has been the way transportation has been. Transportation is not one of those issues that divides us as Republicans and Democrats or even from the East and West. It is one of those issues that brings people together.
It is one of those issues--and there aren't many--but it is one of those issues that we actually have a constitutional responsibility to perform. The Constitution does not ask much of this United States Congress when it comes to developing policy and practice domestically here in this country, but transportation is one of those issues.
Mr. Speaker, I mentioned it was the first long-term bill in more than a decade. That is absolutely true. Length is important all by itself; certainty in transportation, important all by itself.
We passed a 2-year transportation extension, Mr. Speaker. We put in the requirement to streamline some of the regulatory process. Here we are, more than 2 years later, and those regulations haven't even come out yet.
Building is a long-term process. Rulemaking, so that people can build, is a long-term process.
Having long-term certainty is valuable in and of itself, but that is not just what this bill does. It focuses on the national highway freight network, Mr. Speaker.
Between Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, for example, there are three major Federal arteries. We have the Baltimore-Washington Parkway running those 35 miles north. We have U.S. Route 1 running that distance. We have U.S. Interstate 95 running that distance. Those roads are never separated by more than about 4 miles.
Now, whether or not we need three major Federal arteries running between two cities over a course of 35 miles, that is a debate that we can have. What the scope of Federal transportation funding should be is a debate [[Page H8976]] that we can have, And, in this bill, we did have it, Mr. Speaker.
We are focusing on moving goods to market. This is a bill about getting to your child's soccer game on time. This is a bill about freeing up congestion on America's roads and improving America's mass transit in a way that you don't miss the first pitch. But this is also a bill about moving freight to market. It is a bill about making America's economy work.
In a 21st century world, we cannot have a 20th century transportation system. We focus on those issues that have been left on the sidelines for far too long. We focus on bridges, Mr. Speaker. Bridges. It seems so simple. It is a transportation bill; there ought to be more that goes on than just roads and just buses.
Bridges, Mr. Speaker, turn out to be that chokepoint that so many of us have in our district. It turns out it is expensive to build a bridge. It is environmentally difficult to get the permits. It is an engineering marvel to put together some of the bridges that we have here today.
As dollars have gotten tight, many of our communities have not focused on the safety of existing infrastructure in ways that we all know our constituents demand. We make that investment in safety and security today.
Mr. Speaker, we streamline a lot of Federal regulation in this bill. There is not a man or woman on this floor who doesn't believe that we have an obligation to protect this great Earth. There is not a man or woman on this floor who doesn't believe that constructing in an environmentally sensitive manner is a priority for us all.
But there is also not a man or woman on this floor who believes it ought to take 10 years to get a yes-or-no answer. There is not a man or woman on this floor that thinks it ought to take 8 years to get a yes- or-no answer. If the answer is no, the answer is no. But we deserve, our constituents deserve some certainty in that construction process.
We eliminate duplication. We speed up delivery. We allow States, through a pilot program, Mr. Speaker, to begin to enforce some of these Federal mandates. In many cases, it is not the mandate itself that is the problem. It is the Federal bureaucracy that is overburdened and can't come through on permitting.
We allow States, under this bill, as long as they abide by the Federal standards, to go ahead and implement those standards on their own so that they can prioritize the projects that are most important to them.
Mr. Speaker, an issue that I know is important to all of our colleagues: We take some steps to get veterans back to work. This isn't the first bill that has done that, of course. We have done bill after bill after bill after bill on this floor, Hire More Heroes most recently, to say, if the only thing standing between you and putting our veterans back to work is Federal regulation, we want to get Federal regulation out of the way. We build on that again in this bill, Mr. Speaker.
I don't know if you have any truck-driving schools in your district, but I can't find a truck-driving school in my district that doesn't have job offers waiting today for folks who sign up today. The demand is so great, Mr. Speaker, for folks to move goods to market.
But we have limitations on who is eligible to drive trucks, and for good reasons. For good safety concern reasons, we don't want folks 19, 20 years of age to be driving these heavy trucks.
But, Mr. Speaker, we have, returning from Afghanistan, returning from Iraq, folks who have been trained by the finest training facility in all the world, the United States military, folks who have been trained in the skills required, the safety skills required, to move heavy equipment from one place to another.
Those men and women are returning from serving us and are looking for work. If they were talented enough to serve us overseas, are they not talented enough to serve us here domestically? Of course they are. We take steps to recognize that here today.
Mr. Speaker, I am still waiting on that opportunity when I can come to the floor and tell you I got absolutely everything I wanted in absolutely every line of the bill. It has only been 4\1/2\ years for me; I haven't had that opportunity yet. I am still hoping that opportunity comes.
But what I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, is that I came here to make a difference. I came here to move the ball forward. I came here to do the hard things, not the easy things. The easy things have already been done.
There is a reason we haven't passed a long-term bill in more than a decade. It is because it is hard to do. And I take great pleasure and great pride, as a member of the Rules Committee, the Transportation Committee, and the conference committee, in bringing this rule to the floor today.
If we pass this rule, Mr. Speaker, we can move to that conference report, and we can deliver for America what has been undeliverable for more than a decade.