Rahall: America Needs Jobs, Not Resolutions
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Representative Nick J. Rahall (D-WV), Democratic Ranking Member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, today called on Congress to stop wasting time and taxpayer dollars on partisan resolutions and instead return to focusing on creating American jobs. Speaking on the floor of the House, Rahall said he unwaveringly supports Congress conducting its constitutional oversight functions, but questioned the need to spend two days to pass a resolution directing committees to conduct oversight that they are already performing.
“Under both Democratic and Republican Administrations, Federal agencies can and do abuse their regulatory powers. So I stand here today, supporting the contention that Congress ought to check overzealous executive agencies,” said Rahall. “But I also remind my colleagues that this is not a new responsibility; it is a duty placed on Congress – the People’s branch – by the Framers of our Constitution who knew, first hand, the abuses of an all powerful executive. Nothing in this resolution changes or enhances that responsibility.”
The House began debate on H.Res. 72, which would direct 10 House committees to review regulations issued by federal agencies, which is already within the rights and jurisdiction of each of these committees.
“Rather than expending so much time, energy, and taxpayer dollars in a display on this Floor that provides the Members of this Body and the American people not a single ounce of new or enhanced benefit, we ought to be concentrating on real work,” said Rahall. “We ought to be moving legislation that creates jobs – good, family-wage jobs. Americans need a job, not another feel-good resolution from the new Republican majority.”
The following are Rahall’s floor remarks, as prepared for delivery:
The Honorable Nick J. Rahall, II
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
H. Res. 72, Directing a Review of Regulations, Particularly with Respect to
their Effect on Jobs and Economic Growth
February 10, 2011
Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of H. Res. 72. Under both Democratic and Republican Administrations, Federal agencies can and do abuse their regulatory powers. For the last two years in my own District, coal miners, and communities that depend on coal, have been struggling with the uncertainty created by an Environmental Protection Agency that has pushed its regulatory authority to extremes.
As a result of EPA’s extensive intervention in Clean Water Act Section 404 permitting for surface mines, miners in my District and their families are in an untenable limbo, wondering from week to week whether their mines will get a permit and whether their jobs will end.
EPA is setting new timelines and new criteria for permits – timelines and criteria that differ from what is in statute and regulation – and they are doing so, not through the proper regulatory procedure, but through interim guidance, skirting the rulemaking process that would provide for greater transparency and public comment. The agency is setting a terrible precedent that opens the door for further abuses in future Administrations.
So I stand here today, supporting the contention that Congress ought to check overzealous executive agencies. We ought to be conducting rigorous oversight and siphoning off regulations that hamstring our economy and the well-being of Americans, and I fully expect our Committee, the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, to soon review the EPA’s actions with respect to coal mining permits throughout Central Appalachia.
But I also remind my colleagues that this is not a new responsibility; it is a duty placed on Congress – the People’s branch – by the Framers of our Constitution who knew, first hand, the abuses of an all powerful executive. Nothing in this resolution changes or enhances that responsibility. Rather than expending so much time, energy, and taxpayer dollars in a display on this Floor that provides the Members of this Body and the American people not a single ounce of new or enhanced benefit, we ought to be concentrating on real work. We ought to be moving legislation that creates jobs – good, family-wage jobs.
There is no better way to create family-wage jobs than investing in our Nation’s transportation and water resources infrastructure. These investments create and sustain millions of American jobs and generate billions of dollars of economic activity. According to the Federal Highway Administration, each $1 billion of Federal investment creates or sustains 34,799 jobs and $6.2 billion of economic activity. Moreover, these investments strengthen our ability to compete in the global marketplace.
It is for these reasons – creating family-wage jobs and strengthening our global competitiveness – that the Presidents of the Chamber of Commerce and AFL-CIO have linked arms in support of increased infrastructure investment.
Yet, in the first six weeks of this Congress, the only action to date has been to wipe away the legacy of former Republican Chairman Bud Shuster: the budgetary firewalls that ensured that we invested the revenues of the Highway Trust Fund in highway and transit infrastructure.
In the last Congress, the House passed a Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill that significantly increased airport investment, including runway, terminal, and tarmac construction. The bill also authorized and accelerated the FAA’s Next Generation Air Transportation System which will be an engine of economic growth. It will benefit airlines, workers, the traveling public, and the FAA over the long term, providing greater job security and opportunities for the Nation’s 567,000 airline workers and the 624,000 employees that work for companies that manufacture aircraft and components.
We also passed a bill to help cash-strapped States and communities invest almost $14 billion in wastewater treatment facilities and sewer lines.
In addition, the Committee, on a bipartisan basis, approved a $500 billion surface transportation authorization act to significantly increase investment in highway, transit, and rail infrastructure. The bill would create and sustain an estimated six million jobs.
Finally, the Committee approved a Water Resources Development Act bill to invest in our Nation’s water resources infrastructure and an Economic Development Administration reauthorization bill that provides grants to economically distressed communities to help them build the necessary infrastructure to foster business investment and create jobs.
Mr. Speaker, these are the bills that we should be debating on the Floor today.
These are the bills that make a difference in people’s lives.
We cannot wait: the construction season is upon us, and 1.9 million construction workers are still out of work.
They need a job, not another feel-good resolution from the new Republican majority. I reserve the balance of my time.