On Senate Floor, Portman Thanks Partners in Effort to Pass Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, ahead of final passage vote on the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) spoke on the Senate floor to thank his colleagues, the Biden administration, industry stakeholders, and Senate staff for their work to draft and pass this landmark legislation he helped negotiate. Portman praised the economic benefits of the $548 billion investment in repairing our nation’s crumbling infrastructure, and highlighted the months-long process to create this bill as an example of the significant achievements the Senate can achieve on a bipartisan basis.
A transcript of his remarks can be found below and a video can be found here.
“Mr. President, let me start by commending my colleague from South Dakota, Senator Thune, for his explanation of what’s before us next after the vote that we’re about to take and that will be getting into the budget resolution leading to a reconciliation package. And he’s absolutely right. These taxes and this high level of spending is not something that our country can sustain. And I appreciate his outlining the very specific impact it would have on the people we represent.
“But this morning, Mr. President, I’m also here to talk about how the Senate will do something very good today prior to getting into the budget resolution. The Senate is about to make history. We’ve heard over the years – in fact, over the decades – about the need for us to fix our infrastructure. Every president in modern times has talked about it. President Bush, President Obama, President Trump, President Biden. We have talked about it a lot here. There is a joke around town that ‘Infrastructure Week’ has come and gone so many times that people are a little cynical when we talk about it.
“Well, today is ‘Infrastructure Day.’ We’re actually going to see what we have been talking about, which is the Senate on a bipartisan basis saying, ‘You know what? It is time to fix our roads and bridges. We can do so in a responsible way. Not by raising taxes on the American people, but by making important investments in long-term capital assets that will last for years.’ So it’s an investment in fixing up our roads, our bridges, our water systems, our railroads, our ports, our electrical grids, our broadband network and expanding that, and more.
“We’ve had a number of procedural votes to get us to this point, and based on those procedural votes, I think it’s clear that we will have the votes today on a bipartisan basis to do this important work. The Senate will have done its job and will have achieved a real lasting bipartisan victory for the people we represent. The bill called the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will improve the lives of all Americans by making these long overdue investments – $548 billion over the next five years in new spending to repair, upgrade, and replace the crumbling infrastructure all of our constituents rely on every day. That doesn’t mean the money is going to be spent, by the way, over the next five years. It’s authorized for that period, but it will be spent over the next five, 10, 15, maybe 20 years on projects all over the country.
“We know we need this investment. The American Society of Civil Engineers gives our American infrastructure a grade of ‘C-.’ They also project that our economy stands to lose more than $10 trillion in economic growth in GDP by 2039 should we fail to invest in repairs. There is an international organization that looks at all the countries in the world and says who has got the best infrastructure and the worst, and by the way, we’re number 13th or 14th on that list now. So many countries are ahead of us.
“China spends about four times more than we do on infrastructure as a percent of their G.D.P. Why? Because they know that will make their economy more efficient, and they want to beat us in the economic fight that we have globally. We want to win. That’s one reason this is so important. The American people, by the way, understand the need for this investment. In two of the more recent polls from CNBC and CBS News, 87 percent of the American people backed bipartisan efforts to fix our roads, our bridges, our water systems.
“We know that this targeted long-term investment in core infrastructure is good for the economy. Building out hard assets makes us more competitive in the global economy. It will create hundreds of thousands of good jobs for builders, plumbers, electrical engineers, coders, and so many other fields. Economists, including Douglas Holtz-Eakin of the American Action Forum and Michael Strain of the conservative American Enterprise Institute have pointed out that this type of spending on long-term spending, hard assets, does not further inflation but in fact is counter-inflationary.
“To me, not only does this investment make sense, but importantly, what we are doing here today also demonstrates to the American people that we can get our act together on a bipartisan basis and get something done. We can do big things on a bipartisan basis if we put our minds to it. Again, after years, even decades, of talking about the need to do this, we’re finally getting it done. Is it exactly the bill I would have drafted? No. It’s not exactly the bill any senator in the chamber would have drafted because it represents a true bipartisan effort. Each side made concessions to find that common ground.
“I want to take this opportunity to briefly thank my colleagues who have gotten us to this point. We have spent a lot of long nights and long days working to write this legislation. And there has been a group of members who have been particularly committed to it. One is Shelley Moore Capito who is on the floor right now. The work she did with President Biden early on laid the foundation for this. She is also the Ranking Member of the Environment and Public Works Committee that produced some of the legislation we incorporated on the surface transportation front.
“But there are so many others. And I would like to start with my counterpart, the lead negotiator on the other side of the aisle, Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. The two of us began meeting more than four months ago to have discussions that would then lay the foundation for our path forward. And it was in the context of President Biden having proposed a huge package – $2.65 trillion, so-called infrastructure package – and we believed we could pull out real infrastructure from there, take the high taxes out, and get something done for the American people. I commend her for her leadership, for her courage, and for her ability to keep us on track during some tough times during this process.
“From there, it truly became a group effort, particularly among five Republicans and five Democrats who spent a lot of long days and nights negotiating the framework of this legislation. Some of us had worked together before at the end of the year in putting together the so-called 908 framework for the COVID-19 bill that passed late last year that was also bipartisan. To my friends and colleagues, Senators Susan Collins, Mitt Romney, Lisa Murkowski, Bill Cassidy, Joe Manchin, Jeanne Shaheen, Mark Warner, and Jon Tester – thank you for your efforts these past few months. I also want to give special thanks to our colleague Kevin Cramer who joined our group late but was instrumental in finalizing this agreement.
“I want to thank the White House and especially Steve Ricchetti and Brian Deese, Louisa Terrell for their support of this effort and their commitment to trying to work in a bipartisan way to get it done. I also want to thank Senator Tom Carper who just joined us in the room. Along with Senator Capito, he was the EPW Chair, she was the Ranking Member that laid much of the foundation for this legislation, particularly with regards to our roads and our bridges.
“I want to thank my other colleagues in the so-called G-22 who helped in the 22 different working groups that were formed to help put this legislation together. Richard Burr, Lindsey Graham, Mike Rounds, Thom Tillis, Todd Young, Jerry Moran, Chris Coons, Maggie Hassan, John Hickenlooper, Mark Kelly, Angus King, and Jacky Rosen. 11 Democrats, 11 Republicans.
“And then to my colleagues who voted with us repeatedly to advance this bill toward final passage and helped us to get to this point by giving us good input that was incorporated in the legislation – Mike Crapo, Roy Blunt, Chuck Grassley, John Hoeven, Jim Risch, Deb Fischer, Roger Wicker, John Cornyn, and Dan Sullivan. Thank you for your input, your encouragement, and your support.
“I want to give a particular thank you to my friend and colleague, our Republican leader, Senator Mitch McConnell. I want to thank him for his encouragement and his support throughout this process. For sticking his neck out. I know he’s probably the only person as happy as I am in this chamber to see us move forward with this legislation that will help us find a long-term solution to a major bridge, the Brent Spence Bridge, that links our home states of Ohio and Kentucky.
“I want to thank the committee staffs who did so much to lay the groundwork for this legislation. About 73 percent of the pages in this final 2,700-page legislation are legislation that either passed the Senate or cleared committees in the Senate in this Congress, and that’s a tribute to the quiet bipartisanship that goes on at the committee level every day that allows us to get these things done with the requisite knowledge and expertise.
“I also want to thank all the nonpartisan staff here in the United States Senate for their work as well. I know, over the past few weeks especially, the Senate Legislative Counsel has worked closely with my staff and the staffs of other offices to help formalize this proposal in the final text before us today. They worked weekends. They worked late nights. Same with the Joint Committee on Taxation and the Congressional Budget Office. They’ve worked around the clock to get us to this point. And the staff here on the floor – they have been here just as early as we have and stayed just as late as any of us, in fact later, to ensure that this could be possible. I thank them.
“I also want to thank the more than 100 industry associations, unions, and trade groups that came forward to endorse this Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. That includes business groups like the Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, and the National Association of Manufacturers. It also includes labor groups like the AFL-CIO Building Trades Council, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the Laborers’ International Union of North America. It also includes supporters from all levels of government, including the National League of Cities, the U.S. Conference of Mayors who endorsed it, and the National Governor’s Association. It includes more than 30 agricultural groups including the American Farm Bureau. These organizations and so many others like them have been critical to encouraging members of the Senate to do the right thing.
“And finally, I want to again thank my staff and the staffs of all the members who worked for months to get this bill to the finish line. We would not be here without them, there is no question about that. On a personal staff level I want to thank: Kevin Smith, Sarah Peery, Avery Pierson, Anne Gordon, Mike Sinacore, Lydia Denis, Adeline Ewing, Connor Rabb, Connor Hinson, Kalyn Swihart, Matt Lloyd and our entire comms team, Angie Youngen and Nate Dehmlow, Stephanie Mertz and Chris Mitchell.
“On my Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs staff, I want to thank Pam Thiessen, Amanda Neely, Sam Mulopulos, Cara Mumford, Trey Hicks, Liam McKenna, Jeff Post, and Emily Benavides. Again, we wouldn’t be standing here and about to have this vote without them working their hearts out, staying late, getting in early and ensuring that every single part of this bill has been looked over carefully to make sure we got it right. Everyone involved in this effort can be proud of what this body is achieving today. The Senate is doing its job. It’s doing its job by helping the American people we represent through a historic investment in our nation’s infrastructure that will serve the American people for decades to come.”