Posts about Peter DeFazio
The House just approved Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY)'s amendment to add $3 billion in transit capital funding to the stimulus. They approved it on a voice vote instead of a roll call.
According to Nadler's floor speech, 1.5 billion will go to the transit capital formula program, which goes to all states, and 1.5 billion to the new starts program. The AFL-CIO and environmental organizations will "score" this amendment, he said, meaning they'll factor members' votes on this issue into their scorecard ratings for each Representative. Since it was a voice vote, though, we don't know who opposed the amendment, making that impossible.
John Mica (R-FL), ranking member of the Tranportation Committee and the House's leading pro-transit Republican, called this "an amendment we have to support." The Appropriations committee, he said, "took one of the most important parts out: that's the rail and transit." Transit infrastructure creates jobs, he said. "Support the Nadler amendment!"
Transportation Chairman James Oberstar (D-MN) added, "we heard very clearly from the major transit agencies in this country. They have options for buses. They have options for railcars that could be exercised within days." Manufacturers can ramp up production and create jobs all across the nation.
David Dreier Jerry Lewis (R-CA), the ranking Republican on the Appropriations Committee, "reluctantly" opposed since the amendment didn't cut spending somewhere else. Rep. David Obey (D-WI), the Appropriations Chair, gave the shortest speech: "I urge support to the amendment."
Oregon's Peter DeFazio: "Americans are loving their transit systems to death. There's $160 billion of deferred maintenance on these systems... there are 10,000 options for new buses, buses made in America. They can't be executed because our transit systems don't have the money." Rep. Gene Green (D-TX), mentioned light rail in Houston. "This bill must be a jobs bill. The [Chicago Transit Authority] head ... said she could spend $500 million tomorrow" putting people to work, added Dan Lipinski of Illinois. "Nothing will create more jobs than funding transportation infrastructure," said Staten Island's new Congressman, Democrat Michael McMahon.
Keith Ellison of Minnesota talked about the record transit ridership last year. Dan Maffei (D-NY) relayed recent news that the transit system of his hometown of Syracuse is facing deep cuts.
Nobody other than
Dreier Lewis spoke against the amendment.
Update: The House also rejected an amendment by Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) to remove all funding for Amtrak. "In 40 years, Amtrak has not turned a profit, and the federal government has continued to subsidize it." Flake, of course, didn't talk about all the federal subsidy to roads and airports, which he isn't trying to eliminate. Corinne Brown (D-FL), however, made that very point. "There is no form of transportation that pays for itself. None whatsoever. Whether we're talking about rail, airlines, cars, none of that. We subsidize all of that."
Nadler our best hope: Jerry Nadler's amendment would add $3 billion of transit capital assistance to the House bill. Rep. David Obey, Chair of the Appropriations Committee, could include it in something called a "manager's amendment", which would almost surely guarantee it will pass. Obey and Speaker Nancy Pelosi will decide that.
Today, please call Pelosi's office (202-225-4965) and Obey's office (202-225-3365), and ask them to bring Nadler's amendment to the floor. T4A says, "You can mention that our country's transit systems are crucial for keeping the economy moving. At a time when ridership is spiking, and when millions of people rely on these systems to get to work each day, we need to make sure that the economic recovery package will invest money in the kind of transportation that can help us meet our presssing national goals for reducing emissions and oil dependence."
Senate bill is worse: Details of the Senate version of the stimulus are dribbling out. Transit gets a little less than in the House, but about the same percentage compared to highways. Senate Appropriations will be marking up the bill today
The biggest difference is $5.5 billion in multi-modal "competitive grants" that the Secretary of Transportation can award to state and local governments "for projects that will have a significant impact on the Nation, a metropolitan area, or a region." Projects have to be able to finish within three years.
Most of the stimulus would get spent soon: Remember the controversial CBO report saying much of the stimulus wouldn't get spent until 2011? Turns out that's mostly wrong. The new CBO report is out today, and concludes that two-thirds will get spent within 18 months. As Yglesias says, 100% would be better. For any money that won't start in 2009, there's time to debate its proper spending more carefully.
Republicans leaning no: Many Congressional Republicans, including House Minority Leader John Boehner and Senator John McCain, are claiming they will vote against the stimulus as it is today, wanting more tax cuts instead.
Won't Larry Summers please just go away? He already laid the groundwork for the current financial crisis and damaged Harvard's reputation. Now, he's steering President Obama and the stimulus bill away from transit and other infrastructure spending and toward tax cuts.
According to House Transportation Chair James Oberstar (D-MN), the original stimulus proposal had $20 billion more for infrastructure, especially transit, but tax cuts crowded it out. He proposed a 60-40 split between highways and transit, but House and Obama negotiators took away more of the transit, shifting the mix to 75-25. On the Rachel Maddow show Friday, Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) pointed the finger at Summers:
Almost all other economists agree that infrastructure is a better recovery plan than tax cuts. Infrastructure projects let the government guarantee their dollars get spent, not just saved, and then when you're done, the country gets to keep the new infrastructure. An overwhelming majority of Americans support infrastructure spending. But, DeFazio said, tax cuts over infrastructure was "the dictate from on high in the negotiations with Obama's advisers ... I think he's ill-advised by Larry Summers. Larry Summers hates infrastructure."
DeFazio is fighting back, at least a little bit. He's introducing an amendment to add $2 billion in operating assistance to transit, helping our transit agencies stave off painful service cuts at a time when ridership is booming. Congressman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) will also be introducing an amendment to add $2 billion in capital investment. If they pass, those two amendments will restore only a small fraction of the $20 billion Summers & co. cut, but they're a start.
The first step for these amendments is the House Rules Committee, which decides which amendments can come to the floor. Rules will discuss these tomorrow. Please call Louise Slaughter, Chair of the Rules Committee, at 202-225-3615 and ask her to bring DeFazio's and Nadler's amendments to the floor.
Ask for a rule that allows it to pass with a majority of House members. Sometimes Rules requires a two-thirds majority for some amendments, which most likely dooms those; we want a majority.
Most of the time, House members disagree and negotiate behind the scenes. When they go public, they send a clear message that this is an important issue that they care about. Oberstar, DeFazio and Nadler are taking a stand. Let's have their backs. Call Slaughter now at 202-225-3615 and ask for Rules to bring both amendments to the floor under a simple majority rule. And tell your fellow readers how the call went in the comments.
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