Weekly Democratic Address
February 9, 2018
Americans depend on our nation’s roads, bridges, transit and water systems every day. The federal commitment and role in building and maintaining our national infrastructure is as old as our country itself.
Our first President, George Washington, believed it was important to build a road to connect our country from East to West, and he initiated the first federally-funded road. President Dwight Eisenhower later modernized our infrastructure by creating and funding the Interstate Highway System, linking our nation like never before. And it was during Ronald Reagan’s presidency that the federal government recognized the critical importance of investing in public transit systems and authorized Highway Trust Fund dollars for these projects for the first time.
For generations, Congress has invested in this vision of a national transportation system, knowing that that is what binds our national economic well-being, security, and people together – until now.
Unfortunately, the Trump Administration wants to abandon this long, bipartisan history, and slash the federal commitment to a national infrastructure network. We soon expect President Trump to release a plan that devolves the federal role in our infrastructure to the pre-Eisenhower era, placing the burden on the 50 states, territories, and local governments to raise almost all of the funds, and encouraging them to sell off our roads, bridges, transit systems, and water systems to Wall Street and foreign corporations.
We had a state-based system before Eisenhower’s interstates. It didn’t work. For example, the Kansas Turnpike. Kansas started construction in 1954, and Oklahoma said they would build the next segment. But Oklahoma delayed that project for 18 months. So, for 18 months before the Eisenhower plan, it ended in a farmer’s field at the border. The White House would take us back to this disjointed system.
Based on leaked drafts, the Trump Infrastructure Plan slashes real federal investments and shifts the burden to cash-strapped states and local governments. It would cut existing transportation programs to pay for Wall Street and foreign investors to toll our roads, and it would gut bedrock environmental, clean water, and clean air protections under the guise of speeding up projects.
This is not a real infrastructure plan – it’s simply another scam, an attempt by this Administration to privatize critical government functions, and create windfalls for their buddies on Wall Street. This fake proposal will not address the serious infrastructure needs facing this country, so our potholed roads will get worse, our bridges and transit systems [will] become more dangerous, and our tolls will become higher. And Wall Street? They’ll throw another party.
If the Administration wants bipartisan support, they must offer an infrastructure plan that strengthens the federal commitment to our national transportation network by providing sustainable, long-term funding for our depleted Highway Trust Fund.
For more than a year, we’ve been hearing from President Trump and White House staff about a big, beautiful infrastructure proposal. Now, it turns out President Trump’s plan is embarrassingly small.
House Democrats have announced A Better Deal to rebuild America – an infrastructure plan that is 5 times bigger than President Trump’s proposal. We’re offering a common-sense proposal that would invest $1 trillion to rebuild our crumbling roads, bridges, transit systems, ports, harbors, airports, schools, extend high-speed internet to every family in America and put more than 16 million people to work. And these are good-paying, living-wage American jobs that cannot be exported.
140,000 bridges in the nation need to be rebuilt or replaced. Rebuilding a bridge means work today for American businesses, steel workers, engineers, and architects. Our public transit systems have a $90 billion backlog of critical investment needs. This means work for high-tech engineering companies; investment in American manufacturing industries that have been decimated by outsourcing. And with federal transportation dollars come strong requirements to buy America: American manufacturing, American jobs. Federal transportation dollars also support small businesses owned by minorities, veterans, and women.
If we want to put America back to work, get America moving again, and make us more competitive in the world economy, we must strengthen the federal commitment to our national transportation network by providing sustainable, long-term funding.
If the President and the Republican leadership in Congress are serious about making infrastructure priority, then we have a unique opportunity to make badly-needed investments in roads, bridges, transit systems, rail infrastructure, airports, and ports that we’ve been avoiding for decades.
Democrats stand ready to get to work. And we stand determined to deliver the American people A Better Deal: Better jobs, Better Wages, and a Better Future.