Investing in our Nation’s Transportation Infrastructure and Workers: Why it Matters
2167 Rayburn House Office Building and online via videoconferencing
Opening remarks, as prepared, of Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO):
Thank you, Chair DeFazio, and thank you to our witnesses for being here today.
Today’s hearing will focus on three pieces of legislation signed into law by President Biden over the course of this Congress.
But first let’s be clear with where we are today – the economy and the American people are not better off since the President took office. Rather, the current 8.3 percent inflation is nearly 400 percent higher than when President Biden first took office and Americans are struggling with the heightened cost of everyday items.
Inflation, and many of the other crises we are facing today, are a result of the cumulative impact of the overspending, overregulating, and overall failed leadership of the President.
The first of the three bills we are here to talk about today passed in early 2021, costing a whopping $2 trillion. The American Rescue Plan (ARP), as it was called, was forced through Congress using the partisan budget reconciliation process under the guise of helping the Nation combat and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, it was passed when the economy was already well into recovery, and only nine percent of the bill’s funds went to COVID-related assistance. Not to mention, it was the only COVID package developed and passed in a completely partisan way since the onset of the public health crisis.
The second bill, which is of pivotal interest to this Committee, is the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).
The Chair and I both were critical of the fact that this bill was written and negotiated in the Senate along with the Administration while the House was completely shut out of the process. In November 2021 when the bill came over to the House, Members were left with the choice of this flawed bill or nothing, which frustrated all sides.
The third bill, recently passed, is the $750 billion Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) that, despite its clever name, actually makes inflation worse.
All together, these massive spending bills total nearly $4 trillion, most of which was paid for with deficit spending.
I look forward to discussing the very serious effects and consequences that are plaguing Americans in no small part due to the totality of all the massive spending over the last two years.
Problem number one isn’t hard to identify – the injection of nearly $4 trillion dollars into the economy in only 17 months contributed to the highest inflation in four decades. In fact, economists estimate that inflation is costing the average American family nearly $8,000 more this year for everyday necessities. Inflation also is causing states and local governments to scrap or push off important transportation projects.
If inflation continues, it could entirely wipe out the funding increases in IIJA. But let’s remember that Democrat Economist Larry Summers warned us – and the Majority, time and again, dismissed these warnings.
Aside from focusing on the damage these bills did to our economy, another concern of mine is how the Administration is implementing laws Congress has passed, including IIJA. This Administration is not following the letter of the law and is instead using rules and guidance materials to impose partisan policies throughout the process.
Looking forward, my focus will be on oversight of IIJA as well as the transportation-related provisions in the ARP and the IRA to ensure taxpayer funding is spent wisely and according to the letter of the law.