[Congressional Record Volume 150, Number 93 (Thursday, July 8, 2004)]
[Senate]
[Pages S7775-S7776]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]




                        THE TRANSPORTATION BILL

   Mr. DASCHLE. Mr. President, this week we have been talking about a 
fundamental standard to guide our debates in the Senate.
   As we do our work, we need to ask a simple question: ``Are we doing 
right by America?'' We need to ask that question on policies affecting 
farmers, seniors, and veterans. And we always need to ask whether we 
are doing right by American families when it comes to economic 
policies.
   While the economy has finally started adding jobs these past few 
months, this comes after 2\1/2\ years in which the economy lost jobs 
every month. What is clear to many of us is that we still have a long 
way to go, and we need to do more to help improve our economy. That is 
one of the main reasons it is so unfortunate that we have not completed 
the long-overdue transportation reauthorization bill--legislation that 
expired at the end of last September.
   The ability to plan how roads and bridges will be built has suffered 
greatly due to Congress's failure to get this bill completed on time. 
Well over 100,000 jobs have been lost due to this delay. And each month 
that we do not complete our work brings more job losses.
   Job creation will suffer, too--in South Dakota and across the 
country. In my State, because our construction season is short, there 
is not enough time to plan ahead and put people to work, even if we 
passed a bill today. But we will not pass a bill today.
   Earlier this year, on February 12, the Senate passed S. 1072, the 
Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act. 
It was passed by an overwhelming, bipartisan vote of 76 to 21. The 
Senate bill would authorize $318 billion over 6 years and is revenue-
neutral. It is fully paid for and does not increase gas taxes.
   Nearly 400 organizations, representing the full spectrum of 
transportation interests, all support the Senate funding level.
   The Chamber of Commerce, the Associated General Contractors, the 
governors, the State legislators--the list goes on and on. All attest 
to the need for this kind of infrastructure investment.
   The Senate bill would create over 1.7 million jobs--new, good jobs 
for the millions of Americans who are looking for work. In my State, 
the Senate bill would create over 6,500 jobs. It would also provide for 
important transportation needs on our rural roads and Native American 
reservations, and would allow us to move forward with high-priority 
projects in towns like Sioux Falls, Rapid City, Yankton, and Pierre. 
These are important projects that simply will not get completed without 
the assistance of the Federal Government.
   One might ask: ``What was the Bush administration's response to the 
Senate's bipartisan job-creating bill?'' Their response has been, a 
veto threat--hardly the answer that Republicans and Democrats alike 
were hoping for; hardly the response that the economy needs; and hardly 
the response that the infrastructure deficit we have in this country 
cries out for.
   Fast forward to April 2. After a bipartisan House plan to offer a 
bill at a $375 billion level was scuttled by the Bush administration 
and the Republican House leadership, the House passed H.R. 3550, the 
Transportation Equity Act. This bill authorizes only $284 billion over 
6 years, and is not fully paid for. Again, one might ask: ``What was 
the Bush administration's response to the House bill?'' If it did

[[Page S7776]]

not like the original bipartisan House proposal at $375 billion, and it 
did not like the bipartisan Senate bill at $318 billion, how about the 
reduced bipartisan House bill at $284 billion? The answer was another 
veto threat.

  Again, hardly the answer that House and Senate Republicans and 
Democrats were hoping for from their President and hardly the response 
the economy needs.
  Fast forward one more time to June 23, when the Senate conferees 
voted in the conference committee meeting with the House to resolve the 
differences between the two bills. The Senate made a formal offer to 
the House in the amount of $318 billion and requested that the House 
respond to the offer at the next meeting on July 7. So, yesterday, 
after 2 weeks' time, the House and Senate met again. There had been 
hopeful signs that the House conferees might be prepared to accept the 
Senate's funding level, and many of us thought we might have a 
breakthrough that would move the bill forward. But what did we hear 
yesterday? The House was not yet prepared to respond to the Senate's 
offer.
  What is clear to many of us is that unless the White House and the 
Republican leadership in the House release their stranglehold on House 
conferees, we will not have a transportation bill this year.
  Transportation has almost always been--and has been in the Senate 
again this year--a bipartisan priority. Chairman Inhofe has done a 
superb job of guiding the bill forward. But he cannot do it alone.
  I remain hopeful that the Bush administration will realize that our 
economy, our infrastructure, and American families need and deserve a 
good transportation bill, a bill that will create good jobs and provide 
the investments in our Nation's infrastructure that are so desperately 
needed.
  We need more than a President who simply says ``no''--a President who 
says he will veto a final transportation bill with either the Senate or 
the House spending levels.
  By continuing to say ``no,'' the President jeopardizes 1.7 million 
new jobs in our Nation and 6,500 jobs in South Dakota alone. He puts at 
risk necessary improvements for rural and Native American roads.
  Next Tuesday, there will be another meeting of the conferees. I hope 
this critical issue of the investment level will be resolved, and that 
we can get on with the business the American people expect us to 
conduct. If we ask ourselves, Are we doing right by America on this 
transportation bill? The answer is that the Senate has done right. The 
House has made a start. But, unfortunately, without the President's 
constructive participation, we cannot complete the assignment. We will 
not have a transportation bill. We will not create needed jobs. We will 
be failing the American people.
  I urge all Americans to let their Representatives in the House know, 
and let the President know, that we cannot afford to fail when it comes 
to this important bill.
  We can do better, and I remain hopeful that the President will 
confront the challenge, reverse his continued opposition, and join the 
Senate in supporting a transportation bill that makes sense for our 
country.
  Mr. President, I also want to address a concern that many of us 
expressed yesterday about our current circumstances, procedurally and 
parliamentarily.
  The majority leader threw down the gauntlet again last night in a 
very unfortunate decision. That decision, of course, was to file 
cloture. Having filled the tree, which means not only are Senate 
Democrats precluded from offering amendments before we have even 
offered the first amendment or had one vote, it is now the majority's 
decision to thwart the effort to have the kind of debate that all of us 
anticipated on class action and, simply said, we will have wasted an 
entire week in what is a very limited legislative period to begin with.
  There is no question the cloture vote will be defeated. We will have 
wasted that week. We could have disposed of most of the amendments by 
now. Most of my colleagues had already expressed to me a willingness to 
offer their amendments with very short time limits. How ironic that in 
the name of saving time we have wasted time.
  I made a legitimate and bona fide heartfelt offer yesterday that we 
limit Democratic nonrelevant amendments to 5, relevant amendments to 
10. I thought it was an interesting juxtaposition--the majority leader 
actually offered an unlimited list of relevant amendments which would 
have prolonged debate perhaps for weeks if that had been agreed to.
  We have made a good-faith offer. I am troubled and again frustrated 
that we have come to this point. We have wasted a week. We will waste 
many more days, if not weeks, in the future with this practice. We have 
learned from the past how unproductive these approaches to debate can 
be. It is too bad we have to learn all over.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Senator from Utah.
  Mr. REID. Mr. President, will the Senator from Utah yield for a 
unanimous consent request?
  Mr. BENNETT. I am happy to.

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