Under the previous order, the Senate will now resume consideration of S. 1173.
The clerk will report.
The bill clerk read as follows:
A bill (S. 1173) to authorize funds for the construction of highways, for highway safety programs, and for mass transit programs, and for other purposes.
The Senate resumed consideration of the bill with a modified committee amendment in the nature of a substitute (Amendment No. 1676).
The Senator from Rhode Island.
Mr. President, this as you know is the so-called surface transportation legislation, sometimes called the highway bill, sometimes called ISTEA II. We are ready to do business here. Anybody who has amendments I hope will come over and present them. We are ready to take them up. There is no waiting. There is plenty of opportunity. So I hope those within listening distance will heed this very kind invitation to please report for duty.
I suggest the absence of a quorum.
The clerk will call the roll.
Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that further proceedings under the quorum call be rescinded.
Without objection, it is so ordered.
The Senator from Texas.
Let me ask Senator Chafee a question. Did Senator Chafee want to outline the agreement we have reached?
Mr. President, I suggest the absence of a quorum.
The clerk will call the roll.
The bill clerk proceeded to call the roll.
Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.
Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. President, I wanted to come to the floor this afternoon to talk about an agreement that has been reached with regard to the highway bill, to talk about where we are and what the highway bill is going to look like, and, obviously as each of us will do, I want to talk about the impact on my own State of this very important agreement.
Let me give people a little history to sort of define how we came to the moment of reaching this agreement. First of all, last year in the tax bill I offered an amendment to take the 4.3-cent-per-gallon tax on gasoline that had, under the 1991 budget agreement, gone into general revenue and been spent. It was the first tax on gasoline since we had the Highway Trust Fund that went to general Government. What my amendment in the tax bill last year did was it took that 4.3-cent-per-gallon tax on gasoline and took the money away from general revenue and put it back into the trust fund where it belonged.
All over America, when Americans go to the gas pump and put that nozzle into their tank and pump gas, right on the gasoline pump it says there is bad news and there is good news. The bad news is that roughly a third of the price of a gallon of gasoline is taxes; the good news is that the money goes to build roads. The only problem is, prior to today the good news was not true. Between 25 cents and 30 cents out of every dollar of gasoline taxes was being siphoned off to spend on things other than roads. We have reached an agreement today that will, over the next 6 years, end that process. We have reached an agreement today that will guarantee that over the next 6 years every penny collected in the 4.3-cent-per-gallon tax on gasoline will go to build roads and only to build roads. What that will mean is that we will raise the total level of spending in the bill that is before the Senate, in terms of committed obligations, by $26 billion.
For people who are trying to figure out what that means to them and their State, let me give you a couple of numbers. That will mean that over this 6-year highway bill, we will spend on roads roughly 45 percent more than we spent in ISTEA, our previous highway bill. For my State, because of the leadership of the chairman of this committee, Senator Chafee, in trying to eliminate the unfairness to donor States, when you combine the new funds that are available with the fact that under the Chafee bill donor States will receive a minimum of 91 cents out of every dollar they send to Washington in gasoline tax back to their States, what it will mean is that my State will, under the new bill, receive 54 percent more funding than it received under the last bill.
That, in Texas, will mean an opportunity to rebuild our crumbling highway system. We have 31,000 miles of substandard highways. We have tens of thousands of substandard bridges. That 54 percent increase in funding for Texas will mean our ability to improve our highways. It will mean that thousands of people who are dying because of poor roads won't die. It will mean an improved infrastructure that will mean more jobs, more growth, more opportunity all over the country. It will mean that people will spend less time in traffic and, obviously, have the opportunity to spend more time at work or more time with their families or more time doing what they choose to do. So, I believe that this is a major step forward. It is a step forward in terms of building roads. It is a step forward in people seeing the Government do what they believed it has committed to do. Now that we have all the gasoline taxes going into the highway trust fund, we will, under this bill, for the first time, be in a position to say to people that every penny we are collecting in gasoline taxes under this bill will be spent on highways; that money will not be siphoned off to pay for other programs; that we will not use the trust fund as a slush fund for other forms of Government spending; and that when Americans pay gasoline taxes, the bad news is, a third of the cost of a gallon of gasoline in America is taxes, but the good news will be that, for the first time in a long time, every penny of those taxes will end up being spent on roads. I believe that is a very good piece of news.
Finally, let me say there is one additional piece of good news that I think every Member should understand, and that is this agreement does not bust the budget. We have agreed to use the gasoline tax to fund highways and only to fund highways for that portion that goes to roads. And we have agreed that in writing a budget, we will offset this dollar for dollar, so that we will not bust the spending cap.
I hope that the House will decide to do it this way as well and that we will have an opportunity to use gasoline taxes, that portion that goes to highway construction in the highway trust fund, for roads and only for roads.
So I thank the majority leader. I thank Senator Chafee, Senator Baucus and Senator Warner. I thank Senator Byrd for his leadership. I believe that this amendment, which is now scheduled to come up tomorrow, will be adopted by an overwhelming vote. I believe, based on that vote, that 85 or 90 percent of the pending amendments will go away. I believe it will put us on the road to passing a highway bill that will benefit everybody in America, and we are doing it the way families make decisions about priorities. We are doing it by deciding that this is a high priority.
We collected the tax for the purpose of building roads, and we are going to build roads with those taxes, and we are going to pay for it by not spending as much on other things. It seems to me that this is a rare example of Government really working the way people believe it should. I congratulate everyone involved. I yield the floor.
Mr. CHAFEE addressed the Chair.
The Senator from Rhode Island.
Madam President, I congratulate the Senator from Texas for his hard work in connection with this highway legislation. He was right when he said that it was his efforts that brought what was considered the 4.3-cent gasoline tax, that then went in the general fund, into the highway trust fund.
I have to confess that I was not an enthusiastic supporter of that effort, but I can certainly see the rationale behind it. The Senator had the votes and, as I recall, won that vote rather overwhelmingly.
The Senator has been intensely interested in the situation that not only affects his State but a series of States leading to the border, the additional traffic that has been generated by a program I was for, he was for and that I believe has been a great benefit overall for our country but has been very difficult on his State and some of the neighboring States, and that is the so-called NAFTA truckloads, where these trucks are rumbling down into Mexico and from Mexico up into the United States carrying goods, which was the whole objective of what we sought when we passed the North American Free Trade Agreement.
The distinguished senior Senator from Texas has worked very hard to provide some extra money to take care of those roads that are taking an incredible pounding from the NAFTA trucks. In the agreement that we have reached, we have provided, as a result of the pressing of the Senator from Texas, some $450 million, which we will be presenting to the committee tomorrow, and it is my hope and belief that the committee will approve that additional money.
I tip my hat to the Senator from Texas. He is a veritable bulldog in connection with these matters. When he and the senior Senator from West Virginia team up, it is a formidable aggregation. I salute both of them. As a matter of fact, they came away with everything they sought. But in the agreement that we reached, they made some concessions to other programs that they might not have been too enthusiastic about. So the whole thing was a compromise. All of us had to give, and I think the result is a good one for our country.
What will happen next, Madam President? I and the distinguished ranking member of the Environment Committee will take this to our committee tomorrow. We are both for it. We will be salesmen for it. We are not just messengers; we are salesmen for this program. The staffs have met and appear to be enthusiastic about what we are undertaking here. We look forward to our meeting tomorrow. If all goes well, we could report it out, and then I believe that we cannot bring up financial matters until Wednesday, that is, amendments that deal with financial matters to this bill. But that can be changed, and we can, hopefully, bring up this amendment that the Senator from Texas was discussing.
Mr. President, will the distinguished Senator yield or if I may have some time?
Yes. Yes, I yield the floor, Madam President.
The Senator from West Virginia is recognized.
Madam President, we have completed today what I consider to be one of the most remarkable group of meetings that I have participated in during my nearly 40 years in the Senate. Those meetings were called by the distinguished majority leader, Mr. Lott.
What brought us to the meetings were these circumstances: A 6-year highway authorization bill had been reported to the floor. Numerous Senators came to me and said to me, ``Senator, we need more money.'' I am not on the Environment and Public Works Committee. I am not on the Budget Committee. So I suppose I am a player who, in a way, has just come in from the outside.
But working with the distinguished Senator from Texas, Mr. Gramm, whose amendment in the Finance Committee last year effected the transfer of the 4.3-cent gas tax into the highway trust fund, he and I and Senator Baucus and Senator Warner joined together in an amendment which would have provided $30.9 billion in additional contract authority for highways and bridges. Am I correct?
It was our desire to see this money that was building up in the highway trust fund spent on highways and bridges. Now, of the 4.3-cent gas tax that goes into the highway trust fund, 3.45 cents is intended to go for highways and bridges and 0.85 cents goes for mass transit.
Senators Gramm, Baucus, Warner, and I worked hard last fall in an effort to get cosponsors of our amendment. As a final result, we got 50 other cosponsors which, added to the four of us, made a total of 54 cosponsors of the amendment. And we had a good many Senators who told each of us that they would vote for the amendment even though they would not cosponsor it, if and when it came to a vote.
The majority leader then made the highway bill the pending business, and called certain Senators to meetings in his office, and we have had several such meetings. The participants have been the majority leader, Mr. Domenici, Mr. Gramm, Mr. Warner, Mr. Chafee, Mr. Baucus, and myself. On at least one occasion, Mr. D'Amato was included.
In any event, those were difficult meetings. In the final analysis, everybody sacrificed something. In the end, we agreed to increase the amount in the bill $26 billion for highways. I ask my colleagues, am I correct?
Twenty-six. All right. I thank from the bottom of my heart my friend, that old crusty New Englander who wins our admiration and respect, Mr. Chafee. He and I have gone round and round about this, but in the final analysis, we have joined hands. So, the people of Appalachia, who constitute 22 million people in 399 counties of 13 States--those people who have been promised these corridors now for 32 years--can now see the light at the end of the tunnel, because what we have agreed to here will be the $300 million that is already in the reported highway bill, plus $1.89 billion, which will be added according to our agreement, thus making a total of $2.19 billion, which conforms to the President's request.
For the entire cycle 1998-2003, then, there will be $2.19 billion for Appalachian highways. That is not going to be earmarked money. That money is going to those 13 States on the basis of the Appalachian highway mileage that remains to be constructed and considering the costs of completion. Throughout the region, of the total Appalachian development highway system, 78 percent of the system has been completed or is under construction.
Beside and beyond the Appalachian portion, this agreement will benefit every State in the Union in terms of additional dollars for highways. I believe I am making a correct statement. The distinguished Senator from Rhode Island, Mr. Chafee, is nodding his head in the affirmative.
Let me close by thanking him again and by thanking the majority leader, by thanking Mr. Gramm of Texas, Mr. Baucus, Mr. Warner, and Mr. Domenici. It has been a beautiful exercise in give and take and finally coming to a consensus and shaking hands and saying, ``We are going to stand by this agreement.''
I thank all Senators, and I thank the Chair.
Mr. CHAFEE addressed the Chair.
The Senator from Rhode Island is recognized.
Madam President, I salute the distinguished senior Senator from West Virginia for the tremendous work he did in connection with this, not only just the Appalachian regional highway portion of this bill but the overall bill.
As the Senator mentioned, he was in on all the negotiations and pressed forward to conclusion. He outlined vigorously the needs of, and I don't want to say just West Virginia, because West Virginia is just part of the Appalachian region, he stressed the needs for all the Appalachian regional area and prevailed. I salute him for the work he did.
If he can fit it in, I would like to be asked down to the dedication of one of those roads. I have never seen them, to tell you the truth. I think I will go down and take a look. I have heard about them.
Madam President, will the Senator yield?
He will receive an invitation.
Thank you. Thank you.
If it is anything like when we used to build roads at home when I was Governor, we would have a ribbon-cutting about every 2 miles of road we built. In any event, I look forward to it. And I salute the distinguished Senator with whom I have had such pleasure serving in the Senate ever since I came here. He had been here long before I ever got here. It has been one of the real treats of my experience in the Senate to have served with Senator Byrd.
Madam President, I thank my friend.
Mr. BAUCUS addressed the Chair.
The Senator from Montana.
I can only but add to the remarks that have already been given, first, on the substance of the agreement and, second, in my thanks to all the Senators who have participated so intensely, so vigorously in the last week, or so.
The amendment that has been agreed to, first, is a significant amendment. It is an increase of about $26 billion in contract authority over 6 years, from $145 billion to about $171 billion for highway programs, plus about $2 billion for safety programs. So the agreement is very significant. It increases highway spending by roughly 20 percent over the committee-reported bill.
Now, the actual spending by the States, that is, the outlays, may be a little less than that. I hope not, but that amount is up to the Budget Committees and the Appropriations Committees.
Where did we come up with this money? Well, it started with Senator Gramm's amendment last year, which transferred the 4.3-cent gasoline tax to the highway trust fund. That solved the first problem, namely putting that revenue in the Highway Trust Fund. But the second problem was that the Environment and Public Works Committee, which has jurisdiction over highways, could not increase the contract authority in order to spend that 4.3 cents without an agreement on the budget.
I am pleased that the agreement we reached today allows most of the 4.3 cents, namely the 3.45 cents that goes to the highway account, to be spent on highways. So the agreement provides for an increase from $145 billion in contract authority in the committee bill, to $171 billion. There is an additional $2 billion that goes to safety programs under the jurisdiction of the Commerce Committee, for a total increase of $173 billion.
This agreement is fair to all regions of the country. I know a lot of Senators were thinking, ``What are those Senators doing in Senator Lott's office? What have they agreed to? Aren't they just taking care of their own States? And are they being fair to us, too?'' The fact is that Senator Chafee and I made an extra effort since the committee reported the bill out last fall, to talk to Senators who have had specific concerns with the bill--and meritorious concerns, I might add. This agreement, which will be incorporated into a committee amendment tomorrow, by and large, addresses those concerns.
Now, I cannot say it totally accommodates everybody. No amendment on highways can totally accommodate everybody. In fact, among the group that have been working on this agreement--Senator Gramm; myself; Senator Byrd; the leader; the chairman of our committee, Senator Chafee, certainly; and Senator Warner--each of us would have fashioned this agreement a little bit differently if left to our own devices. But when the Senators see what is in the amendment and reflect on it and on the competing interests of other Senators, I daresay they are going to realize that this is fair. I would like to also add what this agreement will mean to the economy. It will give it a big boost. The Department of Transportation statistics indicate that for every billion dollars in additional highway spending, there are 42,000 more jobs in America--a billion dollars equal 42,000 jobs. That is in addition to the benefits derived from relieving congestion and helping America's competitive place in the world with better transportation systems. Furthermore, there is investment in intelligent transportation systems, new technologies which are going to further improve our transportation capabilities.
Let me add too that this agreement is within the budget. It is very important that this increase be within the budget, within budget caps. And I say that, Madam President, because this morning one of the newspapers had a headline, page 1, saying, in effect, ``Uh-oh, there goes Congress again. It is going to bust the budget.''
I appreciate the concern about busting the budget. I think all of us in the Senate do not want to break the budget caps or the provisions and the amounts that are in the budget. This amendment is consistent with the budget. We do not break the budget. It is true there is an increase in highway dollars as a consequence of this amendment, but it is also true that we are within the budget.
Senator Domenici, the very able chairman of the Budget Committee was very clear: We have to live within the budget. And we do.
I have the highest regard for him. He is a tough fighter. He is a very intelligent opponent. In fact, I learned a lot, Madam President, watching Senator Domenici, Senator Gramm, Senator Byrd, and Senator Chafee. And what I learned is not only how tough and intelligent and fair-minded they are, but how committed they are to the legislative process. At the end of the meeting we all said, ``Hey, this is within the ballpark. It may not be perfect. Each of us would probably prefer to do it a little differently. But it's a good outcome for all.''
I am, frankly, very honored to be a part of the process. I will not belabor the point, but Winston Churchill once said that--and let me paraphrase here, Democracy, with all of its delays and inefficiencies and faint starts, is absolutely the worst form of government, except there's none better.
I think that the meetings we have been having over the last week or so are a good example of that. And I only hope now that we can get this adopted, finish with the highway bill, get on to conference, and, most importantly, put it on the President's desk so that all of our work will come to fruition.
I thank all Senators.
Mr. CAMPBELL addressed the Chair.
The Senator from Colorado is recognized.
Did the Senator yield?
Madam President, I ask unanimous consent to speak for 7 minutes as in morning business.
Is there objection?
Reserving the right to object, I ask the Senator, could I speak for 2 minutes on this bill? I was part of the negotiating.
I will be glad to yield.
Mr. DOMENICI addressed the Chair.
The Senator from New Mexico is recognized.
Thank you, Madam President.
We have reached, to the extent that the budget chairman could have some kind of influence, agreement on making sure that we fund this new 4.3 cents, which Senator Gramm last year had moved from the general fund to the trust fund for highways. My role was to make sure that we did not spend any more than the 4.3 cents portion of that which goes to the highway programs of this country.
You would be surprised what differing opinions there were about what is the right dollar number, because there are different versions of what one was trying to do with the Byrd-Gramm bill and what Senator Chafee was trying to do with his bill and what I was trying to advocate.
But let me say to the Senators--some of whom have not gone on the Byrd-Gramm bill because they were wondering what its impact on the budget would be--I cannot say it will not have any impact, because if I showed up here and said that, knowing what I know about the budget, I would be laughed off the Senate floor, because it is a substantial addition to the trust fund, which would not have been there had Senator Gramm not moved that 4.3 cents from the general fund, where it was being used before for deficit reduction as part of President Clinton's first budget, and there would not be this additional money.
So I had a difficult problem with it. And some Senators were waiting for me to suggest that we would not have to break the caps, that is, the agreed upon annual expenditure levels written into law for the next 5 years which, as I will repeat over and over on this floor, are dollar numbers. And that is not a process. That means we have written into statute, law, how much we can spend in appropriated expenditures--the 13 bills we do plus the highway bill and a few other things. That is the total amount each year. If you spend more than that, then all of Government gets an across-the-board sequester cut.
We did our best to arrive at, what is the number. I think it is fair to say that it was somewhere between a total of $171 billion and $174 billion or $175 billion; and then we settled on $173 billion. That is a pretty fair number from the standpoint of asking the Congressional Budget Office: How much will it spend? How much contract authority do you need to have all of that money obligated? And that is where we are.
Now, that will be divided over the 6 years. The first 6 years is already settled, because we have completed it. But the next 5 will have new activity. And I think by the time Senator Chafee's committee produces the bill, each State can look and see what it is going to get in relation to donor and donee States. And I believe it is going to be a very satisfactory bill.
There are a lot of other things that have to be done besides just pour highways in the country. There is some research that has to be done. There is some money that has to go to States that have special problems because they have an awful lot of public lands in their States. There are Indian roads, which in the last 6 years we have started funding. They are the poorest, in roads, of any group in America, and their reservations are the poorest, in terms of transportation, of any. That money has to be in here.
But I think under Senator Chafee's leadership there will be no donor-donee disparity exceeding 91 percent. They will get 91 percent of the money back. And the other part will go to the various programs that are national in scope or specific. I think that is a rather good final conclusion. I regret having to have stood in the way of this bill for so long. But when it finally comes down to it, I think we all understand better what we are going to do.
Now, to the final observation: Can we fund this bill and not have to break the caps? I can tell you that we certainly will be able to in the year 1999 in the budget that we are going to write. Now, this money spends out more rapidly as years go on. I am just bound to do the best I can and to tell it as honestly as I can.
I believe we will be able to meet the caps and do this, but it may very well be that in a few years we will not be able to do that. I do not think it is going to be a big disparity. And I think that everybody understands that the people of this country deserve that highway trust fund moneys be spent on highways. That is why it has been very difficult to say, we should not have this program. Because that money is there, what can it be used for? Since we voted overwhelmingly to put it in that trust fund, we ought to spend it for highways. There is nothing by way of infrastructure in our Nation--to use the word as generously as you want--there is nothing more wanting in the country than the highway infrastructures of our respective sovereign States. And we will make a pretty big dent in catching up with this bill.
So I am pleased to be a part of it. I didn't write the bill, but it was a good experience. And I want to close by saying in particular, when you have a leader who wants to get things done--Trent Lott, our leader, wants to get things done. We could have gone on for I don't know how many more days, but we finished in about 3 or 4 days of rather lengthy sessions getting as much input as we could.
Now the Senate will speak. We will look at this bill that Senator Chafee will produce, a substitute that reaches the conclusions that this negotiating team had, and then the Senate will decide what it is going to do. I, for one, have committed that I am going to support the product that is forthcoming. Not every bit of it is what I would do, but I think overall it is probably the best we could do for our country. I hope it leaves the Senate with a very large majority. The House still has to do theirs. We have to go to conference. And States, by May 1, ought to be getting some additional obligational authority.
I thank the Senators for their participation, and I yield the floor.
Madam President, I want to salute the Senator from New Mexico for his part in this. He had responsibilities. He had responsibilities to guard the budget. And he carried out those responsibilities. I felt very strongly allied with him in connection with those efforts, and I think what we came out with was a satisfactory solution. Are all of us totally satisfied? Of course not. But we are totally satisfied that the end result was as good as we could get under the pressing problems we are faced with. So I am going away happy and hope that the Senator from New Mexico is likewise.
I also want to join his tribute to the majority leader. The majority leader was the one who got us in there and actually proposed the final compromise that we agreed to. So he deserves a lot of credit for moving us along.
I thank the Chair. I thank the Senator from Colorado for his patience.
It is good to be of service.
Madam President, I ask unanimous consent to speak as in morning business for 7 minutes.
Is there objection?
Without objection, it is so ordered. The Senator from Colorado is recognized for 7 minutes.
(The remarks of Mr. Campbell and Mrs. Hutchison pertaining to the introduction of S. 1695 are located in today's Record under ``Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions.'')
Madam President, I also want to say I was here on the floor during the recent agreement that was made on the highway bill. I commend my fellow Senator, my colleague from Texas, Senator Gramm, for working with Senator Byrd in what I think is a very important accomplishment not just for my State but for all Americans.
Many of us feel that our transportation infrastructure is the key to our continued economic viability in this country. Many of us have been very concerned that we have shortchanged that infrastructure by putting money in other areas.
What Senator Gramm and what Senator Byrd did today was to assure that we are going to have the money that people pay in their gasoline taxes each day when they go to work, assure that it comes back in the form of a user fee to help ease the transportation congestion in our urban areas and to make it easier to access our rural areas in this country.
I commend Senator Chafee and Senator Baucus for working with Senator Gramm and Senator Byrd to come out with a very fair agreement that will benefit everyone. I especially thank also Senator Domenici, the chairman of the Budget Committee, for helping to make sure that would happen without busting the budget caps because that is also our responsibility as stewards of our Nation.
I think we had a very important agreement, and I look forward to voting for this agreement tomorrow on the floor. I think everyone will be pleased that we are going to have the money that is paid every day by Americans, that 4.3-cent-per-gallon gasoline tax, go right where it should go, and that is to ease our transportation byways and highways and the transit systems that keep us from having congestion and environmental pollution in our cities.
Madam President, I thank the distinguished Senator from Texas for her very kind comments. We appreciate those remarks.
She is absolutely right. The senior Senator did do a splendid job not just for his State but all the trucks coming and going in connection with the NAFTA agreement, particularly the border crossings down in her State. We are pleased things came out the way they did. We look forward to her support when we bring the bill up on the floor.
If the Senator from Rhode Island would yield, I am happy he mentioned the corridors, the trade corridors, that were also included in the recent agreement.
As we have opened our trade with Mexico, it has caused a huge congestion on the NAFTA corridors that come through my State but also through other States that are on the border and also up into the rest of our country.
I am very pleased you have allocated an extra amount for wear and tear because it will ease the congestion and stop some of the long delays that we are seeing at the border because we don't have enough bridges and gateways. This will help alleviate that and make it even easier to trade with our neighbor to the south.
Madam President, I have seen those jams down there. I have seen them in California by Tijuana. The trucks were all lined up. It is incredible. I saw a little bit of it in Texas, but that was just a sampling of what later has occurred as the NAFTA agreement has come into full flower with the jam-ups on both sides of the border, trucks trying to come across, customs inspectors trying to do their job. It truly is tremendously congested.
Both Senators from Texas are absolutely right in addressing this problem.
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