April 01, 2020

Chair DeFazio Joins Colleagues to Discuss Infrastructure Priorities for a Future Economic Stimulus Package

Springfield, OR – Today, days after Congress passed the $2.2 trillion CARES Act to provide resources for public health and help for millions of workers and families, Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) joined House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Majority Whip James Clyburn, and Chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Frank Pallone on a press call to discuss potential next steps for a long-term economic recovery package. Chair DeFazio supports building upon the Moving Forward infrastructure framework he and fellow House Democrats released earlier this year in order to address some of the critical impacts and vulnerabilities in America that have been laid bare by the coronavirus. A transcript of Chair DeFazio’s remarks is below. An audio file can be found here.

Transcript of Chair DeFazio’s remarks:

Thanks, Frank. First, I want to thank the Speaker, you, Jim, and other leadership as we’ve gone through this. 

As Nancy said, the first package, weeks ago, was emergency, the CARES Act-- hard-fought, and reoriented by the Democrats toward putting people first, was a long battle, we were successful there, and now we’re looking at the third page which is both…there were holes in the mitigation, and that has been addressed here.

Community health centers, access to healthcare, water…Frank has the water coming into the house, I got the water going out of the house, in my Committee—and that is wastewater. Both sides are essential for community health.

And then Jim mentioned broadband. In my little community of Springfield I’ve got a lot of low-income kids, and even after they get computers, laptops from Bill and Melinda Gates they would go on weekends to do their homework and sit on the front deck of the school under the porch. So, broadband is essential, both with all our schools closed for the kids, and as Frank said for people to get their assistance through SBA or to get to work.

But let’s talk a little bit about recovery. I was pleased to see the President has come back to where we started almost a year ago, now. Which is, he wants a big package on investment in infrastructure to recover the economy. Actually, he’s right. For once I agree with him on a step he wants to take.

Unfortunately, I saw press this morning that Mitch McConnell and Leader McCarthy don’t want a fourth package, and don’t want to look at a recovery package. This is investment. This is capital. We can justify this more than tax cuts, we can justify this even more than some of the mitigation we did in the CARES package.

This is rebuilding America and preparing us for the 21st Century in so many ways. We want to put people first, workers first, and nothing does that more than the investments we’re talking about here.

We have the strongest Buy America requirements of any sector of the Federal government, in transportation infrastructure. Way stronger than the Pentagon even, dealing with national defense. So, the multiplier effect is extraordinary.

Make no mistake, this is an incredible economic blow to America. What we have done has mitigated some of that damage. But we’re going to need a longer-term recovery package and we have to be more resilient in the future, which we can with this package.

Many of you are already familiar with it. We’ve added some critical things, community health centers, we have increased funding for broadband to meet the goals that Jim put forward. It has critical investments in transit, in rail, in our crumbling roads, bridges, and highways.

When I flew back to Oregon after D.C., and I drove down I-5, I thought I was in the movie Convoy. There was virtually nothing on the highway but trucks and me. 

These truck drivers are today’s American heroes. They are keeping our stores stocked, they are keeping things moving, and we have to have a better system for the future for trucking, for rail, for that and it also has to look toward the future in dealing with the next major threat.

And I know Mitch McConnell and others are poo-pooing this, but I believe climate change is, even in times of coronavirus, is an existential threat and if we’ve got to rebuild our infrastructure let’s rebuild it in a way that is resilient for severe climate events. Let’s rebuild it with new materials that are less carbon intensive. Let’s rebuild it in a way so we move away from fossil fuel dependence in transportation. If you’ve got to rebuild it, rebuild it the right way. And this is an investment we have to make.

One last thing, one of the key portions of what should be a model of the last bill, was what we did for 2.3 million workers in the aviation industry, or directly related to it. Which was a payroll pass through, not to be touched by the airlines. Not to be touched by the contractors. That would keep the pay and benefits going so we don’t add 2.3 million people to the unemployment rolls. 

Yeah, loans to airlines we heavily conditioned them, if Mnuchin wants to condition those more, fine. Take your pound of flesh. But don’t slow down the payroll assistance which is what he is in the process of doing right now. We put workers first in that package, we’re going to put workers and America first in this package.

With that, I yield back.