Lewis Statement on the Highway Trust Fund Bailout Bill
WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Appropriations Ranking Republican Jerry Lewis today made the following remarks on the House Floor regarding the $14 billion, taxpayer funded Highway Trust Fund bailout bill:
“Mr. Speaker, if there was ever a time when the American public needed to pay close attention to the spending decisions being made in Congress, it is now.
“It’s ironic that in the week following the adoption of so-called “Pay-Go Rules,” the House would be debating a measure to set aside more than $14 billion—without offsets—to pay for two so-called trust funds that have run dry. “Pay as we Go” has been replaced with “Spend as we Borrow.”
“Today, the House will vote to borrow another $7 billion—that’s $7 billion—out of the general fund to replenish the Highway Trust Fund which has become insolvent as a result of high gas prices and the sluggish economy. By this time next month, without a congressional bailout, the so-called Highway Trust Fund will be unable to reimburse states for their highway investments. It was only last year that Congress set aside $8 billion from the general fund to keep the highway fund solvent.
“Clearly, this band-aid approach to fixing this re-occurring problem is not working. One more time, the House is voting to bail out another sector of the economy with money it does not have. This is on the heels of the bank bailout. It’s on the heels of the so-called “Recovery Act” which has succeeded in spending billions but has thus far failed to create jobs. It’s on the heels of the bailout of automakers in Detroit. And it follows another year of astronomical spending increases for every major government program run out of Washington, DC.
“It was only last month that our former colleague, and the present Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, testified before the House Transportation Appropriations Committee. “I want to assure you that we will soon have a plan to address the potential Trust Fund shortfall this summer,” he said. “We believe very strongly that any Trust fund fix must be paid for.”
“An effort was made by the THUD-Appropriations Ranking Member, Tom Latham of Iowa, to pay for a solution to the Highway Trust Fund shortfall. But, because my friend Mr. Latham is a Republican, his amendment was rejected on a party-line vote in the full Appropriations Committee. In a sign of just how desperate the majority party in the House has become, Mr. Latham wasn’t even allowed to offer his amendment during consideration of the transportation funding bill last week.
“If the bailout of the Highway Trust Fund wasn’t enough, Congress is also being called upon to replenish both the Unemployment Trust Fund and increase the limits for two mortgage lending programs under HUD. In the case of the unemployment trust fund, states have been hit with a double whammy of a halting economy and job losses causing more and more people to line up for unemployment benefits.
“Over $400 million was appropriated through the so-called Recovery Act to address this shortfall but those funds have now been depleted. And, to this point, the authorizing committees have failed to take any action to help those presently receiving benefits or newly unemployed.
“Mr. Speaker, with each passing day it’s becoming increasingly clear that the public is growing ever more wary about the reliance of this Congress on government spending as a solution to every problem facing our country.
“As the Congress spends trillions on bailouts and borrowing—and our record national deficit increases by the day—the President’s response thus far has been almost laughable. Yesterday, with much fan fare, the White House proposed saving taxpayers money by double-sided copying of government documents and eliminating unused government e-mail accounts and phone lines. These examples hardly qualify as profiles in courage.
“The President and this majority leadership have promised fiscal discipline and a return to economic prosperity. And yet, the record thus far shows nothing but one bailout after another and rising levels of government spending as far as the eye can see.”