We all can agree that funding improvements to the nation’s infrastructure is vitally important to creating economic growth and promoting commerce. An important feature of our tax reform discussion draft would provide enough revenue to maintain the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund for eight years.
Americans deserve to know that as they travel around town, go to work or take a vacation this summer, the roads, bridges and highways are modernized and safe. Yet, by the end of this month, we will no longer have sufficient funds in the Highway Trust Fund to keep our transportation projects going. This will not only mean a loss of jobs, but it will also put Americans at risk.
Over the last week, the Committee staff – Majority and Minority – have been working with our counterparts on the Senate Finance Committee to address this in a bipartisan, bicameral manner. The Senate appears to be heading down a road of higher taxes for more spending. That’s not a path forward in the House.
So, what I have put before the Committee today is the only package with a proven history of getting big bipartisan votes in both the House and Senate. The three provisions – pension smoothing, customs user fees and leaking underground storage tanks – have all been used previously in bills that received strong bipartisan votes. Pension smoothing and LUST were included in the last bipartisan highway trust fund legislation, which every Committee Democrat voted for and was signed by President Obama.
These are policies everyone at the dais is familiar with, they are policies that will provide the funding we need, and they are the only policies that will pass both the House and Senate in time to fund the trust fund after the end of this month. So, I see no reason why we cannot work to get this done right away.
I want to emphasize that this bill will provide us with enough funding to get through the end of May 2015 – while this is not to the end of next year as I would have preferred – it is a much better approach than any proposal to just get us through the end of this year. A funding package that just goes to the end of 2014 would only create a larger crisis in December.
We all know what lame duck deals look like, and, more importantly, how they come together. They are not done in this room and they are not done by the Members of this Committee. Maybe one or two of us will be consulted, but they are often Leadership deals with the Committees on the outside looking in. Frankly, even though I have been in the room, I am tired of Congress operating that way. We need to get back to a more open, deliberative process – something I have tried to do. So, this bill gives this Committee time to deliberate and produce a longer-term solution by the end of May next year. And in the meantime, I intend to have a hearing in Committee on a long term solution for the highway trust fund.
I know that many Americans watching today would not place their money or confidence on Congress getting something done in time. In fact, state transportation departments have already started delaying or stopping certain highway projects to prepare for the fact that funding may fall short. Americans across the country deserve to see less gridlock on the roads and from their elected Representatives. These policies are straightforward, and have a history of bipartisan, bicameral support. Moving this forward will enable us to prevent the American people from going through yet another showdown and inject some stability into our state transportation systems.
Additionally today, the Committee will consider two resolutions of inquiry. H. Res. 645 and H. Res. 647. The first demands copies of any emails in the possession of the Executive Office of the President that were transmitted to or from the email accounts of former IRS Exempt Organizations Division Director Lois Lerner between January 2009 and April 2011. The second demands copies of Ms. Lerner emails to or from the Department of Treasury for the same period. Any responsive documents are to be delivered to the House.
A resolution of inquiry is a tool provided by the Rules of the House by which documents may be requested from the Executive Branch. This tool, however, is no more powerful than a request for documents from a committee of jurisdiction. This fact is demonstrated by recent requests by this Committee and subsequent productions of the same documents sought here.
On June 13, 2014 the Committee learned that Ms. Lerner’s hard drive crashed resulting in the loss of emails from January 1, 2009 to April 2011 exclusively between Ms. Lerner and persons outside of the IRS. On the following Monday, June 16, the Committee requested all emails between Ms. Lerner and the Executive Office of the President and Treasury. The Committee received documents in a timely manner from the White House on June 18, and documents from Treasury on June 20 and June 23.
Because the Committee has already obtained the requested documents, these resolutions are not necessary. I will therefore move that they be reported unfavorably out of Committee.