June 28, 2021

Chair DeFazio Statement Before the Rules Committee on the INVEST in America Act

Chair DeFazio: “The U.S. will continue to fall behind the world in both hard infrastructure and innovation—failing future generations of Americans and losing any control over the clean tech sector—if we don’t get serious about making smart, bold investments now”

Washington, D.C. — The following are remarks, as prepared for delivery, from Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) during the Rules Committee meeting on H.R. 3684, the INVEST in America Act. Video of Chair DeFazio’s statement can be found here. More information on the INVEST in America Act can be found here.

Chair DeFazio:

I’m pleased to testify before the Rules Committee today in support of H.R. 3684.

The “INVEST in America Act” is a transformational surface transportation and water infrastructure bill that will move our infrastructure—and our economy—out of the Eisenhower era of the 1950s and address the existential threat of climate change in a meaningful way.

Tackling climate change is a Herculean task, so some may ask, why address it in a transportation bill? Well, because the transportation sector is the number one source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. It would be foolish, not to mention wildly irresponsible, to continue pouring taxpayer money into the old way of thinking that we must merely expand highways. We know now that doing so just creates induced demand. You add more lanes, attract more cars, then before long, the congestion returns and you’re right back where you started. Except now you have bad traffic and more carbon pollution.

That’s why I wrote the INVEST in America Act in a way that upends decades of status quo and invests smarter.

By shifting into a new era of how we move people and goods—we can improve lives and create millions of good-paying jobs that cannot be exported, from pipefitters to construction crews, to engineers and clean tech workers. We support U.S. manufacturing with strong Buy America standards, using materials from our own backyard.

My bill is also about restoring our global competitiveness. In the 1950s, America’s infrastructure was the envy of the world. More than 70 years later, due to decades of underinvestment and attempts to devolve the responsibility to cash-strapped states, the U.S. doesn’t even crack the Top 10 when it comes to our infrastructure. That means we’re trying to run a 21st century economy on 20th century—and in some places, 19th century—infrastructure.

That’s not just bad for the American people who pay in their own time, money, and safety, but also businesses. Farmers, small businesses, online retailers—they all need modern roads, bridges, railways and ports to operate efficiently. So every time you see a semi stuck in traffic, or ships backed up at a port, that’s bad for our economy. Especially when you consider that on the other side of the globe, our biggest economic competitor—China— is investing in its infrastructure at an eye-popping rate.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, China spends nearly six percent of its GDP on transportation infrastructure.

The U.S.? About half of a percent.

I offer this information not to say we must match China dollar-for-dollar or even system-to-system, but to stress that the rest of the world—China, but also Japan, Germany, and so forth—is spending on its infrastructure with an eye to the future. The U.S. will continue to fall behind the world in both hard infrastructure and innovation—failing future generations of Americans and losing any control over the clean tech sector—if we don’t get serious about making smart, bold investments now.

Which brings me back to the INVEST in America Act, which is just what it says: it invests in America—our people, our workers, our communities—and puts our nation back on track to have world-class infrastructure again.

One could argue even having functioning infrastructure would be progress. Because the American people are tired of the potholes that send them to the auto shops for costly repairs. They are tired of wasting hours of their day on congested highways. They’re tired of failing sewer systems, lead in their pipes, crumbling bridges, dangerous intersections and non-existent bike lanes, infrequent and unreliable bus service, and slow-moving trains.

We must stop sitting on the sidelines. This is an American problem that America can fix.  And we can do so in a way that reconnects communities affected by planning mistakes of the past, and makes it easier and safer to walk, bike, and live near public transit.

We can invest in a robust intercity passenger rail network capable of providing Americans across the country travel options that are significantly more efficient than driving or flying, while connecting city pairs and the parts of the country that lack other intercity travel options.

Transforming our infrastructure is our once-in-a-generation opportunity to help communities thrive and we have a president in the White House right now who is on the same page.

So I sincerely hope my Republican colleagues see the light. And if not because of the need to address climate change, then because bold investments in our infrastructure makes business sense.

Earlier this year, the CEO of FedEx testified before my committee, noting that FedEx is moving to an all-electric fleet. GM is going all-electric. If corporate America sees the writing on the wall, and that is where the markets are moving, then I don’t know who else or what else will convince Republicans they should get on board too.

I should note, a couple of Republicans on my committee voted in favor of the INVEST in America Act at our markup three weeks ago. I hope to see even more bipartisanship in the full House as we move forward. I’m ready to work with anyone who wants to see serious progress—the kind of progress that the majority of Americans want and deserve.

Because infrastructure is calling and Congress must answer in a big, bold way to invest in the fundamentals of our country. We have the ability—right now—to make our streets safer for everyone, whether you’re walking, biking, driving, or in a wheelchair.

We have the ability to:

  • Help prevent tens of thousands of deaths on our roads each year.
  • To make our communities more livable and connected.
  • To create economic opportunities, especially in our rural, low-income, and underserved communities that have been short-changed for far too long.
  • To electrify our national highway system and invest in new technologies, projects, and construction materials that are efficient and resilient—so that when we build a new bridge, we know it will last for decades, not just until the next extreme weather event.
  • We have the ability to provide greater access to jobs, reduce transit deserts, and respond to the affordable housing crisis with a focus on transit-oriented development and equity.
  • We have the ability right now to recognize the impacts of pollution and congestion, which fall disproportionately on low-income communities and communities of color.

In summary, the INVEST in America Act, which fulfills key pieces of President Biden’s American Jobs Plan, provides $715 billion to bring our nation’s crumbling infrastructure up to a state of good repair, improve resiliency, address climate change, improve safety, and provide investments in both rural and low-income communities that need it most.

This legislation will create millions of good-paying jobs, support American manufacturing, and restore U.S. competitiveness. By putting people to work on transformative projects in urban, suburban and rural communities across the country, this legislation invests in jobs that can’t be exported.

This is exactly the kind of investment we need to help our economy recover from the current pandemic, including the 7 million-plus jobs that have yet to return.

And we must reverse the trend that began decades ago, long before the pandemic: a shrinking number of good-paying jobs with benefits, which hits especially hard for Americans without a college degree.

Infrastructure investment is exactly what this country needs for solid, long-term economic growth that benefits all Americans, not just Wall Street. It’s time the U.S. economy got back to rewarding work, not wealth, and we can do that with the INVEST in America Act.

I hope my colleagues will join me in supporting this legislation.