Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid made the following remarks on the Senate floor regarding the transportation jobs bill. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
Fifty-six years ago, it took President Eisenhower a year to convince Congress – and the country – to make an unprecedented investment in America’s highway system.
After all, building 47,000 miles of interstate highways across the nation would require an unparalleled effort and an unprecedented investment.
The project required enough concrete to build six sidewalks to the moon. And it cost $50 billion – or the equivalent of almost half a trillion dollars today.
The project was hugely successful.
It created jobs. It connected farms and factories, tiny town and towering cities. And it allowed manufacturers and merchants to ship goods across the country for the first time in our nation’s history.
Looking back on his great effort to pass the first highway bill, President Eisenhower considered it a crowning accomplishment of his presidency.
“More than any single action by the government since the end of the war, this one would change the face of America,” he wrote in his memoir. “Its impact on the American economy – the jobs it would produce in manufacturing and construction, the rural areas it would open up – was beyond calculation.”
Fifty-six years later, Congress is once again considering transportation legislation, and an investment in this country’s crumbling roads, bridges and train tracks.
But we have the benefit of history on our side.
We know from 56 years of experience that investing in America’s roadways and railways will create and sustain jobs.
And we have no doubt that building a world-class transportation system will help us rebuild our world-class economy.
That is why one of the most conservative members of the Senate, the Senior Senator from Oklahoma, and one of the most liberal members of the Senate, the Junior Senator from California, have joined hands to advance the bipartisan transportation bill before this body.
The bill is comprised of four measures reported out of the Environment and Public Works, Banking, Commerce and Finance committees with bipartisan support. And both sides have agreed to a package of 37 amendments to this legislation.
But in today’s political climate, bipartisan support isn’t enough to keep good legislation alive.
In today’s political climate, 85 votes to begin debate on a measure aren’t enough to guarantee that measure will become law.
The transportation legislation under consideration is truly bipartisan. It will create or sustain 3 million badly needed construction jobs.
Yet, Republican leaders have wasted almost a month of the Senate’s time obstructing this valuable measure for political reasons.
Unfortunately, Democrats cannot keep construction crews working to repair 70,000 collapsing bridges across the country without Republican cooperation.
Without Republican cooperation, we cannot expand the nation’s mass transit system to accommodate tens of thousands of new riders every year.
And without Republican cooperation we cannot create and save 3 million jobs repairing crumbling pavement and building safer sidewalks.
It will take a bipartisan effort to advance this bipartisan legislation.
Frank Turner, a former Federal Highway Administrator, said work on this country’s transportation system “will never be finished because America will never be finished.”
Although the work is never finished, it is up to Congress to sustain the effort.
And unless Congress acts this month, work on highways and bridges and train tracks across the country will grind to a halt.
Unless Congress acts, the American economy will pay the price for partisan bickering.
So I am hopeful my Republican colleagues will join Democrats to put American jobs ahead of procedural games, and help us advance this vital transportation legislation.