Congresswoman McCollum's Statement on the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012, H.R. 4348 Part II
Mr. Speaker, I rise today in opposition to H.R. 4348, the Surface Transportation Extension Act, Part II. With this legislation, House Republicans are making all the wrong choices for Minnesota, and for the country.
House Republicans are choosing to bring another short-term extension of transportation policies to the floor instead of the two-year measure that passed the Senate with an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 74-22. The Senate bill would save or create over two million jobs, including an estimated 28,100 jobs in Minnesota. This legislation has been introduced in the House, and I am an original co-sponsor.
The Senate bill is not perfect, and I encourage my Senate colleagues to continue working with stakeholders—including tribal leaders, small businesses, and local governments—to strengthen this bipartisan legislation. But this compromise solution will put people to work right away and provide the certainty that transportation agencies and businesses need. For over a month, House Republican leaders have refused to allow a vote. It is completely unacceptable that Tea Party Republicans in the House continue to stand in the way of two million American jobs at a time when construction workers across the country are sitting on the bench, desperate to work.
In this bill, my Republican colleagues also chose to include language that will increase gas prices for Minnesota families. H.R. 4348 grants approval for construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would divert Canadian oil away from Minnesota refineries to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico. In a March 2011 Start Tribune op-ed, respected oil economist Philip Verleger explained this diversion would reduce oil supply in the Upper Midwest, raising costs for Minnesotans at the gas station and grocery store. In fact, Verleger said the country as a whole would end up paying nearly $5 billion more for oil than we do today if the pipeline is built.
This legislation also includes language offered by Congressman Reid Ribble (R-WI) to limit the ability of local governments and citizens to participate in transportation projects in their communities. These changes to the National Environmental Policy Act would restrict local influence in transportation decisions that directly affect residents' health, safety, and quality of life.
I urge my colleagues to reject this broken bill, which guarantees more uncertainty for states, fewer jobs for workers, higher gas prices for drivers and less control for local governments. Instead, we should choose the bipartisan alternative and immediately pass the Senate legislation to put two million Americans back to work.
Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.