John Feehery: Speaking Engagements

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Pass the Damn Highway Bill

Posted on March 15, 2012


Pass A Highway Bill, for Chrissakes!



The House was on recess this week, so it must have been somewhat embarrassing for House members that the Senate passed a Highway bill while they were back at home.

 

Infrastructure is one of the key ingredients to a successful economy.  If you can successfully move people and products from one place to another with minimal friction, you have a leg up on your competitors.

 

America’s competitive edge is tied up in its infrastructure.  We move people and products better than India, Russia, China or Brazil, so our products get to our consumers faster, our workers get to work faster, and our economy grows faster as a result.

 

Henry Clay was perhaps the first American politician to understand how important infrastructure was to our nation’s development.  His American system proposed higher tariffs to pay for internal improvements, the first gas tax, if you will.

 

After returning from Europe at the conclusion of the Second World War, Dwight Eisenhower pushed for a national highway system based on what he saw in Nazi Germany.  The autobahn, of course, didn’t just move products; it also moved tanks and troops.  Ike understood that a national highway system wasn’t just important for the economic security, but also for national security.

 

Highway bills used to be bipartisan affairs.

 

The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (or the T&I Committee), used to be a bulwark of bipartisanship.  When Bud Shuster ran the Committee, he faced down the Republican Leadership and the Appropriations Committee in budget showdowns, gaining more power for his large Committee is deciding where the highway money went.

 

That bipartisanship has disappeared, largely because the House Democrats have little interest in seeing the Republicans succeed.  Nancy Pelosi won’t let Nick Rahall cut any deals, and as a result, the Committee has lost its juice.  Without bipartisan backing, the Committee can’t fend off challenges from the right, and that means that a highway bill can’t move forward in the House.

 

Certain Republicans have consistently voted against highway funding.  I don’t know why exactly.  Maybe they don’t like the pork.  Maybe they don’t like to be surprised by “Bridges to No where.”  Maybe their local communities have all the roads they need.

 

I don’t know.  What I do know is that without adequate infrastructure, America will lose it competitive edge.   If we can’t move products and people efficiently, we won’t create jobs in the future.

 

My message to the House is simple:   Pass the damn highway bill.