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The Hill: Republicans Welcome the Chance to Work with Democrats on a Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill

Washington, D.C., May 12, 2021 | Justin Harclerode (202) 225-9446
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The Hill

Republicans welcome the chance to work with Democrats on a bipartisan infrastructure bill

by Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO)

When I sat down with President Joe Biden and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg earlier this spring, we had a productive conversation about integrating bipartisan principles into infrastructure legislation that we all agree is important to the Nation. I laid out a few priorities that must be considered in order to get Republican support – positions that were not considered in Speaker Pelosi’s “my way or the highway” approach to infrastructure last year.

I explained that, to gain bipartisan support, a proposal shouldn’t grow into a massive, multi-trillion dollar catch-all bill, it should focus on core infrastructure like roads and bridges rather than instituting a sweeping regime of Green New Deal mandates disguised as “infrastructure,” and it must ensure equity for rural America.

While the President’s infrastructure blueprint hasn’t hit the mark on these objectives, he did indicate a willingness to compromise to gain Republican support. That stands in stark contrast to Speaker Pelosi’s liberal allies, who are openly calling for the use of the budget reconciliation process to jam through their latest partisan wish list without Republican support. The Speaker and Senate Majority Leader Schumer should follow the President’s direction and work with Republicans on bipartisan infrastructure proposals.

For example, a much-needed, multi-year surface transportation reauthorization, often referred to as the “highway bill,” should be a cornerstone of any effort to improve our infrastructure. Over the last 25 years, four highway bills have been signed into law under both Democratic and Republican Presidents (in 1998, 2005, 2012, and 2015). Those efforts were all accomplished under House Republican leadership, and all ultimately passed with broad bipartisan support.

With razor-thin majorities in the House and Senate, I remain hopeful that Speaker Pelosi has learned from last year’s failed highway bill (H.R. 2) and will recognize the history of successful infrastructure efforts of recent decades. If she chooses a partisan path again, we can expect another enormously broad, one-sided package that Republicans – eager to find common ground – can’t support.

In the interest of finding that common ground, I will soon introduce a highway bill that sets forth Republican priorities that must be meaningfully addressed in order to have a bipartisan package in the House. Built upon last year’s Surface Transportation Advanced through Reform, Technology, & Efficient Review (STARTER) Act, this new STARTER Act 2.0 will include additional input and ideas from Republican Members, infrastructure stakeholders, and others.
Our bill will focus on core infrastructure programs – like fixing our roads and bridges – rather than diluting our limited resources by creating numerous new programs and mandates.

While our bill will provide the largest increase in surface transportation investment over the last quarter-century, we must get the maximum value out of every dollar. STARTER 2.0 will not only provide for greater flexibility for states to meet their own unique transportation needs and priorities, it will also streamline project delivery by cutting red tape to reduce delays and costs. Time is money, so this improvement will have an impact similar to providing additional funding – without harming the environment. Canada, Australia, and Germany have much more efficient project review timelines than the U.S., yet they outrank us in environmental performance.

We will also ensure equity for rural communities, which contain 71% of public road mileage. STARTER 2.0 will protect core programs that are important to these areas and increase support for rural communities in programs for transit and transportation innovation.

Beyond this, our bill will also foster incorporation of more innovation and technology in our infrastructure, promote making infrastructure more resilient to severe weather, and put the Highway Trust Fund on a path to long-term sustainability.

Beyond a highway bill, Republicans will continue to put forward and support bipartisan proposals to improve broadband deployment, invest in critical wastewater infrastructure, and upgrade critical coastal and inland ports both small and large, all while adopting commonsense, consensus resiliency policies.
I hope that my counterparts in the Majority will work in good faith with Republicans to address our priorities for a highway bill, so we can find a compromise that both sides can support, like we have on many other infrastructure proposals. At the end of the day, bipartisan congressional action will always be the surest path to our mutual goal of improving America’s infrastructure.

Sam Graves represents Missouri’s 6th District and is ranking member on the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
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