A picture of Senator Maria Cantwell
Maria C.
Democrat WA

About Sen. Maria
  • Transportation Bill

    by Senator Maria Cantwell

    Posted on 2015-12-03

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    CANTWELL. Mr. President, I rise tonight to thank my colleagues who worked so hard on this transportation package that we have just voted on. I thank Chairman Inhofe and Senator Boxer for their hard work, as well as Chairman Thune and Senator Nelson from the commerce committee for their hard work.

    The last thing I would have predicted at the beginning of this year is that Senator Boxer would have joined forces with Senator McConnell to force through a transportation package that many of us probably thought wasn't even a reality. I would like to thank the Senator from California because I think there are times in everybody's career where you have to decide that you are going to stand up and push forward no matter how many arrows are shot in your back or no matter how many questions people ask. You have a vision of a path that you see and you realize that at the end, you think you can produce a package that will really be good for America.

    That is what Senator Boxer has done. She has produced a package that will not only be a great legacy for an already great career but will be the very anecdote we need right now to an economy that is greatly challenged by a lack of infrastructure investment.

    [[Page S8368]] I say that because the Senator from California and I both represent West Coast States that see Asia as a great economic opportunity and that represent ports up and down the West Coast. We probably have the top one and two and three and four ports on the west coast as far as volume. The key thing that we know is that our own quadrennial review of energy products told us that we can't even move product because we compete so much for room on our rails, and battle congestion on our highways. So for the first time, because of this legislation, the United States of America will have a national multimodal freight policy, along with a national freight strategic plan to say that we have to identify the freight network that is most critical to moving product to the United States of America and through our ports, and that we should have a program to direct funding to those multimodal projects that are going to help get U.S.-made products outside of the United States and to the markets where they need to be delivered.

    So again, I thank Senator Thune and Senator Nelson for fighting for these provisions in the commerce committee bill that got merged into this package and all of the staff on both sides of the aisle in the commerce committee who helped on this and Senator Boxer and Senator Inhofe for including this.

    I know that many times I ran into staff in the hall and they said: Yes, we know, freight can't wait. Which is kind of a moniker that we had come to talk about because freight really can't wait. If we are not shipping it in a timely fashion from North America, from the United States, I guarantee to my colleagues that products will be delivered to Asia or to Europe from someplace else and we will lose business.

    So I think the U.S. Congress and the Senate tonight has understood that our infrastructure needs a shot in the arm to move freight and to establish this policy I know is going to pay dividends for us. So thank you very much for making sure that provision was in this legislation. It is a very key moment for us looking at the fact that we are an exporter and that we want our products to reach markets in a timely fashion.

    I also want to thank the Secretary of Transportation because he gets this policy, and the national advisory committee that his predecessor established on freight will be very helpful for us in identifying the projects and using the resources that are in this legislation to move forward.

    I also want to say how happy and grateful I am that the resolution of the Export-Import Bank debate is finally over tonight, and finally we have resolved the fact that the Bank will be reauthorized for 4 years. There are hundreds of millions of dollars of projects that need to be approved and they can hopefully start moving through the process.

    I will point out that the Board needs nominees to fill the vacancies, and we should get that done so we can finish this process. But the fact that we are making a commitment for 4 years to the strategy that, yes, we want to manufacture products and, yes, we want to build things and ship them to overseas markets--whether they are grain silos, whether they are airplanes, whether they are music stands, whether they are tractors--whatever they are, we want to build them and we want to reach developing countries and international markets, and we are going to make sure the credit agencies that assist bankers in finalizing those deals exist, and we are making that commitment for 4 years.

    So if there is anybody who has arrows in their back over that, I also thank them for continuing to fight to make sure we got through this process. My colleagues know that both a majority of people in the House--a majority of Republicans--supported this idea and finally got their voices heard through a discharge petition, and the majority of the U.S. Senate supported this position.

    So I hope people who have allowed this process to finally take place will understand how valuable the freight provision and the export bank provision is for us as a country to continue our export strategy.

    Our strategy is to build great products and to sell them to a developing world. Ninety-five percent of consumers are outside of the United States, so let's sell products, but we have to fix our infrastructure to do it. We have to make sure that credit is available to do it, and we have to make sure we continue to move forward with the other policies that are going to help us with this strategy.

    So, again, I want to say how grateful I am. I will tell my colleagues I don't think it is a perfect bill, but everybody here understands it is not a perfect bill. Again, I want to thank the Senator from California for her decision to take what is a challenging process and persevere on an investment strategy that--each and every one of us would have written a different one, but at least it got us to this goal of making needed investment in critical infrastructure at a time that our country needs to be able to move products and get things to customers around the globe, and this will very much help in that process.

    Again, I thank the staff on both committees, on both sides of the aisle, and everybody who was involved in making these policies a reality.

    Thank you, Mr. President.

    I yield the floor.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Oklahoma.

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