Assessing the Federal Government’s COVID-19 Relief and Response Efforts and its Impact

2167 Rayburn House Office Building and online via videoconferencing

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0 Thursday, July 29, 2021 @ 11:00 | Contact: Justin Harclerode 202-225-9446
This is a hearing of the full Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

Official Transcript

Witness List:

Panel I
The Honorable Michael E. Horowitz, Chair, Pandemic Response Accountability Committee | Written Testimony
Ms. Heather Krause, Director, Physical Infrastructure Issues, Government Accountability Office | Written Testimony
Mr. Chris Currie, Director, Homeland Security and Justice Issues, Government Accountability Office | Written Testimony
The Honorable Eric J. Soskin, Inspector General, Department of Transportation | Written Testimony
Mr. James Izzard, Assistant Inspector General for Investigations, Department of Homeland Security | Written Testimony

NOTE, due to conflicts with the House schedule, the second panel of witnesses was cancelled.

Panel II
Mr. Paul Skoutelas, President & CEO, American Public Transportation Association (APTA) 
Mr. Juan Ortiz, Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, City of Austin, Texas; on behalf of the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) 
Dr. Michael J. Boskin, T.M. Friedman Professor of Economics and Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University 
Dr. Wendy Edelberg, PhD. Director, The Hamilton Project, The Brookings Institution 
Mr. John Samuelsen, Transport Workers Union of America (TWU) 

Opening remarks, as prepared, of Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO):

Thank you, Chair DeFazio.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the government has spent $5.9 trillion on combatting COVID-19.  $1.9 trillion has been authorized by Congress this year alone.

Some of this money was legitimately needed to help us respond and recover from a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic.  With it we were able to do things like Operation Warp Speed, distribute personal protective equipment (PPE), set up medical clinics, and provide transportation for essential workers.

I am glad today’s hearing will focus on oversight and look at how these funds have been used – and potentially misused.

Unfortunately, a lot of recent funding has masqueraded as pandemic-related relief.  For example: more than $1 billion for Amtrak, school funds for critical race theory, and loads of extraneous green projects.  And now the Majority wants to add another $3.5 trillion to the tab through its “human infrastructure” bill which will be jammed through using the partisan budget reconciliation process.  This would be the highest level of funding for any legislative measure in our history – costing the American taxpayers about $50,000 per U.S. household.

We cannot casually throw around trillion-dollar figures now like we’re playing with Monopoly money.  We must consider where these astronomical amounts of money are actually coming from.  Unfortunately, it’ll come from the pockets of the taxpayers, and the pockets of future taxpayers who haven’t even been born yet.

The effects of this cumulative, unchecked spending are real.  And we’re seeing it every day.  The price of consumer goods has gone up nearly across the board.  For example, gasoline is up 56 percent, airfares are up 24 percent, used cars are up 30 percent from last year, and even the cost of chicken wings has increased by more than 58 percent. 

And let’s not forget that we still don’t know how this virus started despite its high cost.  More than 600,000 U.S. lives were lost and we’re still paying the economic toll of recovery.

I look forward to hearing from today’s panels on how this spending is impacting our economy, jobs, and whether or not Congress was as targeted as we ought to have been when spending such huge sums of money.

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