April 14, 2021

Chair DeFazio Statement from Members’ Day Hearing

Washington, D.C. — The following are opening remarks, as prepared for delivery, from Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) during today’s Members’ Day Hearing on the infrastructure priorities of non-committee Members. Video of DeFazio’s opening statement is here. More information on the hearing, including a livestream and a list of Member testimony, can be found here.

Chair DeFazio:

Welcome to our Members’ Day Hearing, which is an opportunity for our House colleagues to appear before the Committee to testify about their infrastructure priorities. As of this morning more than 70 members, both Democrat and Republican, have signed up to speak, a pretty good indication of the appetite for action.

Of course, this hearing could not be happening at a more critical time. After decades of underinvestment and inattention to the state of our nation’s roads, bridges, transit, rail, wastewater and so much more, the stars have aligned to go big and bold on infrastructure and finally bring our systems out of the Eisenhower era. This is a moment more than 70 years in the making, and if done right, it’s an incredible opportunity to:

  • Create millions of good-paying jobs and rebuild the middle class;
  • Restore our global competitiveness and unleash our economic potential;
  • Make people’s lives better and our communities safer and more equitable, affordable, and liveable;
  • And critically, move our country toward a clean energy future in concert with the private sector—which is already moving that way—and cut carbon pollution from the transportation sector, which is the number one source of emissions in the United States. 

These goals are something my Committee colleagues and I have worked on a lot over the years—and it culminated in our very ambitious bill, the Moving Forward Act, that we passed in the House last year. Unfortunately, that effort hit a brick wall in the Republican-led, Do-Nothing Senate.

So, after fits and starts in Congress and in recent administrations—including the seven fake Infrastructure Weeks under the previous White House—I’m incredibly encouraged by the fact that the current administration has made rebuilding our infrastructure a top priority.

It’s not just that we need to modernize what we have and build for the future: We must also consider that despite recent improvements in the economy, the fact is, we’re still down more than 8 million jobs compared to pre-pandemic levels. And even well before the pandemic, this country has suffered from a lack of good-paying, middle class jobs. I strongly believe that rebuilding and re-imagining our infrastructure is hands down the best tool we have to usher in American manufacturing’s second act.

That’s why I support the president’s American Jobs Plan, which gives Congress the broad strokes of where the administration wants to go.

It’s now up to this Committee to put the details into place on a large portion of that plan in a way that benefits communities of all sizes, from major metropolitan areas, to mid-sized cities, to rural communities, like much of the district I represent in Southwest Oregon. Americans across this country absolutely want Congress to act. That much is clear.

That effort moves forward with today’s hearing, which will help inform our must-pass surface transportation reauthorization bill, which is the heart of any infrastructure plan and something I intend to introduce and move through this Committee in a matter of weeks.

I appreciate the Committee’s Ranking Member Sam Graves for our ongoing dialogue and for working with me on including Member Designated Projects in our surface bill. Making sure members can directly advocate for their districts—as we’ll hear a lot of today—is key. Just like I know my district better than someone at a federal agency and am held accountable by my constituents, so do the members we’ll hear from today.

I know that Members of our Committee share a lot of goals, regardless of which side of the aisle you’re on, and we have a proven track record of achieving results. Now we invite all of our House colleagues to join as we demonstrate to the American people that their government is still capable of working together and taking responsible action to complete critical projects, create good paying jobs, bolster U.S. industries, save lives, preserve affordable access to transportation and water infrastructure, protect our natural resources, and make smart investments to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Thank you to all Members who have made time to come before the Committee today. I look forward to your testimony.