Apr 20, 2021
Senate Hearing on American Jobs Plan, Infrastructure Transcript April 20
The Senate questioned Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and other cabinet members on the American Jobs Plan, Biden’s infrastructure plan, during a hearing on April 20, 2021. Read the transcript of the full hearing here.
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Chairman Leahy: (00:00)
…public, some members, myself included, also serve on the judiciary committee and that is having a significant hearing and voting rights act. And I was just there and spoke. But I thank everybody for coming here to what’s the first hearing of the full Senate Appropriations Committee for the 117th Congress. And I think it’s very appropriate we’re having a hearing on infrastructure. I also thank all the number of members, both Republicans and Democrats who are here because these are issues that affect all of us. There is no other committee within the Senate whose jurisdiction touches every aspect of our government, have American lives and saying can be sort of core infrastructure. And that’s why Senator Shelby and I worked so closely together over the years. There are days when they’d say infrastructure and it meant only bridges or highways, roads and rail. Or to narrow our view of infrastructure to justice is not only prosaic and reflects a willful ignorance of the real needs facing our communities, our cities, our nation at large.
Chairman Leahy: (01:29)
The American Jobs Plan is a sweeping proposal it’s going to inject sorely needed resources into our transit systems, build affordable housing long needed in communities across every part of our country. It’s going to address the disparity and reliable broadband access currently only further divides rural and urban America. As one who lives in rural America and knows what that’s like I sympathize. With investment in people, in research and development. It will help the development, implementation and climate friendly technologies that will begin to chip away at the long ignored climate issues.
Chairman Leahy: (02:29)
Some of the greatest universal challenge of our time because you can no longer ignore the reality of climate change. Now we have an opportunity toward taking a step to mitigate our carbon footprint, but to make our infrastructure more resilient to the challenges ahead. It’s not a question of whether or not we should take this opportunity, it’s necessary to our future that we do. And rural America and everybody here represents rural a area also in their state. I certainly do, the State of Vermont. 97% of the nation geographically is in rural America, but it’s only 23% of the population in rural America has been left behind for too long. In Vermont, 20% of homes lack adequate access to quality high-speed broadband. The race for 5G services across the country ignores the fact that in my State of Vermont, plenty cannot even get access to 4G services and I suspect that’s the same in rural areas of every state represented here. But in the pandemic, it has meant the difference between access to education for students or not.
Chairman Leahy: (04:02)
And I think of the families that are shivering in their cars parked somewhere near where they could get broadband for their children to get their education. It’s meant the difference between receiving potentially life-changing tele-health services or not and facing unnecessary deaths. It’s meant the differences between simple connections with family and friends or not. Regarding our broadband access is not just simply laying fiber and walk away. With it, schools, hospitals, office buildings, homes must have the necessary framework in place to use those services. It’s all connected, not just by roads and bridges. I’ve heard the naysayers, those who say we spent too much too quickly in face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Those who say these investments are for states to make, not the federal government. Those who say now is just not the time.
Chairman Leahy: (05:07)
To those people I say, if this is not the time, when is? When is? And if not us, then who? A crisis here, we have to step up our economy, necessarily curved or the last year to stop the spread of the deadly pandemic is a need and not just cash infusions for Americans, but of jobs, good paying jobs to help rebuild America. Not where we were, but to where we have to be in this next generation if we want to compete on an international stage. There’s no more pivotal time than now. America can’t be left behind, the world’s in an economic race. We’re losing to China. Beijing is investing heavily in new roads, railways, water infrastructure. They’re investing in the economy, the transportation of tomorrow. But so should we, our country only invests about 2.3% of GDP on our infrastructure. That’s a 60 year low from where those despots peaked in the fifties. Other industrialized countries like our European allies more than double the United States investment this sphere.
Chairman Leahy: (06:29)
We can’t continue our position as a leader of the global state by thinking small. Now this is the Senate Appropriations Committee. I know all of you, you’re all friends, I think the world of you. And we work annually, every single year to enact meaningful appropriations bills that address the needs of our time. But today, the need outweighs the resources our annual process can provide. We have a once in a generation opportunity, a once in a generation opportunity to not just put a patch on the problem, but to make the aggressive and substantial investment demanded by the moment. This is a popular initiative, and why shouldn’t it be? The American Jobs Plan stands to significantly improve the quality of life here in America, in urban and rural areas alike. We’re sent here to advocate for our constituents. American Job Plan I trust has many of those dates, it’s long overdue. Let’s set aside prior [inaudible 00:07:42], let’s work together. As this committee has so many times over our history. And I agree it’s a boat step we needed this time in history. And I yield to my friend, the Vice Chairman, Senator Shelby.
Senator Shelby: (08:00)
Thank you. Thank you Mr. Chairman. I want to first welcome our witnesses to the committee today. And since this is our first full committee hearing under the new democratic majority, Mr. Chairman, I want to recognize and congratulate you on your new role as chairman of the committee and hope that we can continue to work together in a bi-partisan fashion because that’s the only way we’re going to really move things for the American people. I also want to commend you for calling today’s hearing. I believe it’s an important step toward reasserting the appropriations committee’s jurisdiction over federal spending. President Biden’s emergency COVID Relief Bill contain nearly half a trillion dollars in appropriations for discretionary accounts. Despite this, the appropriation committee was sidelined by the process used to pass that legislation. I hope we don’t go down that road again, especially with something as important as infrastructure.
Senator Shelby: (09:05)
Doing this work at the appropriations committee’s level is not just about protecting the committee’s jurisdiction here, it’s about protecting also the American taxpayers. The appropriations committee has expertise other committees lack when it comes to over side of funding. This is especially important given the scale and the scope of the package the president has proposed Mr. Chairman, you and I have shown that when given a chance appropriators can strike deals that enjoy broad, bi-partisan support. And as a general matter, I believe there is broad bipartisan agreement on the need for investment in our nation’s crumbling infrastructure. But the breadth of that support I think depends on how broadly the term infrastructure is defined. For me, that is a central question for today’s hearing. What kind of investments can we agree fall under the category of infrastructure? I believe most people associate the term with roads, with bridges, airports, transportation systems, water systems, sewage systems and the like. The administration’s proposal on the other hand is so broad and ambiguous in the areas that it seems there is little, if anything that they do not consider or call infrastructure.
Senator Shelby: (10:36)
The American Jobs Plan proposes to be all things to all people I guess wrong time. It’s largely, I think an effort to check items off the longstanding liberal wish under the guise of infrastructure. Non germane items aside also have concerns about the overall approach in the president’s plan for more traditional types of infrastructure. The plan appears to be focused on making new investments in unproven programs rather than expanding investments in proven infrastructure programs. It all suggests I think an approach that will grow government for the long-term instead of harnessing the power of the private sector partnerships that I believe are good for American business taxpayers and for infrastructure in this country. Not to mention, it also proposes paying for everything with a massive tax increase. Yes, a massive tax increase. In light of this proposed tax hike, it’s puzzling that the administration in his press release announcing the proposal claimed it will put, “Position the United States to out-compete China.”
Senator Shelby: (11:51)
Wow! That’s all the more curious considering the administrations recently proposed slash in the defense budget of all things as well. Self-inflicted wounds in the American economy and military readiness are not an effective recipe for out competing China in my judgment. I hope our witnesses today can provide the committee more details than the administration’s press release including. It’s time I believe to move past slogans, platitudes to the particulars and this is why this hearing is important today. I hope they will tell us today our witnesses that is, about their ability to execute the projects of this scale in addition to their regular responsibilities. I’m interested in hearing about the expansion of the federal bureaucracy that will be required to execute such a huge sums and the long-term funding that will be necessary to sustain it. I’m also interested Mr. Chairman in learning about any alternatives to the proposed tax increases to finance those projects in a more efficient manner.
Senator Shelby: (13:04)
Finally, I believe we must have an understanding of the accountability mechanisms that are planned to ensure taxpayers’ hard earned dollars are not wasted. This is a very important discussion that you put together today and I want to thank you again for ensuring that the appropriation committee has a voice in this debate. I think it’s a golden opportunity to achieve the unity the president has promised to deliver. I hope we can come together to make the types of investments that we can agree on are necessary to improving our nation’s infrastructure and boost the American economy for years to come. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Leahy: (13:46)
Thank you. And before I introduce the witnesses, I mentioned, if I can have the member’s attention for a moment, this hearing is a hybrid hearing meaning we have some members attending virtually, some in person. I thank the witnesses for being here in person. You get to the question portion of the hearing where we have five minute question rounds. I know there are a number of committee meetings going on. Members will be called on the order of their seniority in the full committee. If the senator is unavailable at the time they’re called, we’ll move on to the next person then they missed their term and when they come back, we’ll just go back in order. And it has the senators mute themselves when not speaking. Those joining virtually I’d ask you not log out of the meeting before I ask you any questions. Just turn off your cameras if you need to step away.
Chairman Leahy: (14:52)
And we are going to have witnesses who speak, each for five minutes, with the Secretary of the Department of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg, then the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Michael Regan, Secretary of Commerce, Gina Raimondo, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Marcia Fudge. But I see the [inaudible 00:00:15:21] senator from Rhode Island here. And when you’ve got someone from your state you know well, let me yield to you Senator Reed for your introduction.
Senator Reed: (15:32)
Thank you Mr. Chairman. I’m delighted to be able to introduce Secretary Gina Raimondo, we’re fortunate to have her. I’ve been privileged to know Secretary Raimondo since she was two months old, we were neighbors together, our families in Rhode Island. And indeed many years apart, Secretary Raimondo and I went to the same high school, LaSalle Academy in Providence, but there are paths to part. Secretary Gina Raimondo was accepted in every school I was rejected from. Harvard College, Oxford University as a Rhodes scholar and Yale Law School. And that might account for her success as governor. She was an extraordinary leader when the COVID crisis erupted, she’s led the state with great decisiveness and then she’s been a great asset to our economic activities in the state. Dramatically enhancing our economy through innovation, wise investment and a dynamic partnership with business. We are indeed lucky to have her. Welcome Madam Secretary.
Chairman Leahy: (16:37)
Thank you Senator Reed. And let’s start with Secretary Buttigieg. Mr Secretary, please go ahead. And I apologize for the distance in here. Usually if you’re in a committee this size, we’re a little bit closer together. It’s a sign of the times and I’m hoping before too long that will change. Please go ahead Mr. Secretary.
Pete Buttigieg: (17:04)
Chairman Leahy: (17:14)
Is your microphone on?
Pete Buttigieg: (17:16)
How about now? All right. Sorry about that Chairman. Thank you. Thank you to Vice Chairman Shelby, thanks to all of the members of the committee for inviting us to testify today. We’re gathering in a moment in which our infrastructure situation calls both for urgent action and for long-term strategic vision. As we speak, a climate crisis is already hurting Americans and it will continue to get far worse if we don’t act. And in this moment, we need to add back millions of jobs to fully recover from the pandemic even as we build a stronger foundation for the economic future. It’s in this context that we see The American Jobs Plan as a once in a generation opportunity to meet this consequential moment and to win the future for the country that we all serve. And this plan would improve more than 20,000 miles of roads and 10,000 bridges.
Pete Buttigieg: (18:10)
It will strengthen aviation ports and waterways. It will address critical backlogs in rail and expand world-class passenger rail services, including high-speed rail. It has dedicated funds for projects that will have significant benefit to the regional and national economy, but are too large or complex for existing funding programs. The American Jobs Plan will fix and modernize our transportation system so that our economy and our country can thrive. That means finally addressing the inequities of past transportation choices and it means increasing access and equity in projects going forward. And that means also tackling the climate crisis. In the United States, the transportation sector is the economy’s single biggest contributor to greenhouse gases which means it can and must be a big part of the solution to climate change. The American Jobs Plan will move us away from our over-reliance on fossil fuels and toward net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Pete Buttigieg: (19:14)
It will spark an electric vehicle revolution, building a network of 500,000 electric vehicle chargers across the country in urban and rural areas and provide rebates to make electric vehicles affordable for more Americans. The plan will double federal funding for public transit, making it a more reliable and accessible option to more people. And by investing billions to make travel safer for all Americans, whether they move by car, public transit, foot, bike, wheelchair or any other means, it will reduce congestion on the road and pollution in the air. We draw inspiration from the new deals infrastructure projects and president Eisenhower’s interstate highway system. But we cannot afford to rely on the original version of the roads, bridges and airports they built all those years ago. The need for new investment is impossible to ignore. We see it in the sections of California’s Highway 1 that fell into the ocean, in the Gulf Coast flooding that halted rail service after hurricane Harvey and in the loss of subway service for millions of New Yorkers after hurricane Sandy.
Pete Buttigieg: (20:25)
We see it in the storms on our coasts, the floods in the Midwest, the wildfires in California and the deadly snow storm in Texas, we must adapt. Our proposed resilience investments would support projects across America that reinforce, upgrade or realign existing transportation infrastructure to better withstand extreme weather events and other effects of climate change. I heard it’s said that The American Jobs Plan should be about roads and bridges but should not address climate change. I would compare that to drawing up plans for a new restaurant, with no consideration for health, safety or cleanliness. The truth is that every infrastructure decision is already inevitably a climate decision as well. Our choices on roads, bridges and other infrastructure must recognize and reduce the very real threat that climate change poses to American lives and livelihoods. This is also our opportunity to deliver equity where it has been denied in the past. Which is why at least 40% of the benefits of the plans climate investments will flow to overburdened and underserved communities who often bear a disproportionate burden of transportation pollution. And yes, this is fundamentally an investment in our economy. The time has come to break the old false framework of climate versus jobs. After all, American workers are going to do the work, rebuilding roads, laying new cables and pipes, retrofitting buildings, installing electric vehicle chargers and manufacturing the vehicles that will use those electric chargers. This is America’s biggest jobs investment since World War II, supporting millions of new prevailing wage jobs, the majority of which will be available to people without a college degree. I look forward to working with members of the committee to make that possible. Thank you again for the opportunity to appear and we’ll be happy to answer your questions.
Chairman Leahy: (22:09)
Well, thank you very much Mr. Secretary. And next we’ll hear from the Administrator for the US Environmental Protection Agency, Michael Regan.
Michael Regan: (22:23)
Thank you Chairman Leahy and Vice Chairman Shelby and members of the committee. I’m grateful for the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss The American Jobs Plan. This plan recognizes that now is the time for a bold, much needed investment in America to put millions of people back to work and lay the foundation for economic growth by investing in an infrastructure that could benefit all communities leaving no one behind. Infrastructure in the 21st century extends far beyond roads and bridges. It means investing in our electrical grid and building a more resilient transmission. It means revitalizing digital infrastructure to expand access to reliable high-speed broadband internet in every pocket of this country. And it also means investing in our drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, cleaning up our restored land and investing in programs that reduce pollution for our children. Ensuring access to clean and safe water for all Americans impacts our nation’s climate resilience and is integral to advancing environmental justice and equity.
Michael Regan: (23:32)
At EPA, we’ve seen that investing in water infrastructure is a win-win for public health and for economic development. For example, EPA’s water, infrastructure, finance and innovation act loan program has helped finance over $19 billion in water infrastructure, creating over 47,000 jobs nationwide. The American Jobs Plan would build on these successes by proposing $111 billion to invest in state-of-the-art water infrastructure that’s more resilient to cyber attacks as well as climate change impacts. And to remove a hundred percent of the nation’s lead pipes and service lines and strengthen our water workforce, our pipe fitters, our contractors, electricians, who are critical to safeguarding the health of our communities and getting clean water to every tap in America. The plan would invest $56 billion in grants and low cost flexible loans to states, to tribes, to territories and disadvantaged communities, all across this country to upgrade and modernize America’s drinking water, wastewater and storm water systems.
Michael Regan: (24:42)
Tackle new emerging contaminants and support clean water infrastructure across rural America. The American Job Plan also provides $10 billion in funding to monitor and remediate PFAS in drinking water and to invest in rural small water systems and household well and wastewater systems, including drainage fills. In total, these investments we’ll create millions of good paying jobs, including union jobs. When I was a child growing up in rural Eastern North Carolina, I had to use an inhaler, an experience too familiar to too many children in this country. The American Jobs Plan proposes to electrify at least 20% of our yellow school bus fleet through a new clean buses for kids program at EPA to protect kids on their way to and from school. We know this type of investment works. Since 2008, Congress has provided funding through EPA’s Diesel Emissions Reduction Act for more than 28,000 school bus upgrades, including more than 4,000 school bus replacements.
Michael Regan: (25:46)
The clean bus, the clean buses for kids program would build on the lessons learned from the DERA program and leaving an existing impact. These investments will also boost market demand to create jobs, build on our infrastructure and support US manufacturing. In the 40 years since CIRCLA was signed into law, we have made significant progress in cleaning up our restored lands but the work is far from over. The American Jobs Plan proposes a $5 billion investment in the remediation and redevelopment of brownfield and superfund sites, as well as related economic and workforce development programs. Cleaning up contaminated sites and returning them back to productive use can be an engine for economic development across this country. Since Congress started the brownfields program, federal investments have leveraged $34.6 billion supporting more than 176,000 jobs and cleaned up or made thousands of properties ready for reuse.
Michael Regan: (26:46)
Chairman and members of this committee, thank you for inviting me to discuss the American Jobs Plan with you. Together, we will help ensure that EPA can meet the interconnected health and environmental crisis we face, lift up communities who have long been left behind and demonstrate responsibly that environmental protection and economic prosperity are not mutually exclusive, but actually go hand in hand. Thank you and I look forward to answering your questions.
Chairman Leahy: (27:11)
Well, administrator and I appreciate you being here. And Secretary Raimondo you have been well introduced by Senator Reed and I’m glad to see someone from one of the Southern states in [inaudible 00:27:30], please go ahead.
Gina Raimondo: (27:32)
Thank you Chairman. Thank you Chairman Leahy, Vice Chairman Shelby, thank you to members of the committee. It’s an honor for us to come before you to talk about the president’s American Jobs Plan and to have the opportunity to hear your concerns and answer your questions. And special thanks to Senator Reed for an overly generous introduction. The American Jobs Plan puts forward historic public investments, investments that are necessary to make sure that every American has the opportunity to get a decent well-paying job and to position America to out compete on the global stage. The plan calls for strategic investments in a number of areas that will ensure we can strengthen our workforce and our companies, rebuild our infrastructure and secure Americans global leadership. As a secretary of commerce, I’d like to highlight the importance of these investments as they relate to a few specific areas. Number one, expanding access to broadband. I think we can all agree that every American deserves to have access to high quality affordable broadband. Number two, strengthening our supply chains and domestic manufacturing for critical industries such as semiconductors. And number three, training and up skilling our workforce. Every American ought to have a chance to get a decent well-paying jobs and that means ought to have the skills necessary in order to get a job and succeed. Additionally, the Jobs Plan calls for significant investments in upgrading childcare facilities and school construction which I know are very important to this committee. And I will say I’ve been very proud of the work that I have done with Senator Reed during my time as governor. I can tell you from my own experience and Senator Reed’s experience in Rhode Island and our investments in schools and in childcare facilities that they work.
Gina Raimondo: (29:43)
When I began my experience as governor, Rhode Island unfortunately had the highest unemployment rate in the country, not a distinction that we were proud of. And so during my administration and with the support of the federal government, we made infrastructure investments a priority, including in schools, in libraries, in childcare facilities and also in job training and in apprenticeships. And I’m very proud to say that prior to COVID, we had the lowest unemployment rate in a generation and more jobs ever than our state’s history. So we know investments in infrastructure pay off and create jobs. My job as commerce secretary is to do everything that I can to enable American businesses of all sizes to compete. And in my first weeks as secretary, I’ve spent a great deal of time talking with business leaders across all industries and everyone agrees we have to invest in broadband, supply chains, manufacturing, research and development and our workforce.
Gina Raimondo: (30:45)
We need transformational investments in broadband to ensure that all Americans finally have access to high quality, reliable, affordable broadband. 35% of Americans who live in rural communities don’t have this, it’s unacceptable. And as the Chairman said, we saw during the pandemic that that meant children couldn’t go to school, people couldn’t go to work and people couldn’t see the doctors. We also need to strengthen our supply chains so that we can make critical goods in America and put Americans to work rather than outsourcing to countries such as China. A particular industry that deserves our attention is the semiconductor industry. Semiconductors are the building blocks of our future economy yet today we are in the middle of a global chip shortage that is hurting businesses in every sector of our economy. Our nation is falling behind its biggest competitors with regard to investments in R and D manufacturing and training and it’s time to catch up.
Gina Raimondo: (31:45)
I’d also like to take a minute to address a portion of the jobs program that is, I think, fundamental to our competitiveness which is investments in the care economy. Too often those that provide care, mostly women and women of color are working full time living in poverty, The American Jobs Plan prioritizes long-term necessary investments in childcare and home care systems to address these critical issues. And they are vital to ensuring that women can stay in the workforce and be productive. It’s time to make these bold investments, to make it easier for our workers and companies to compete, to create tens of millions of jobs and to position the United States to out-compete China and our foreign competitors. I look forward to taking your questions.
Chairman Leahy: (32:35)
Well thank you. Thank you very much Madam Secretary. It is good to see Secretary Fudge here, a friend of a long time and I’m glad to have you here. Please Madam Secretary, go ahead.
Marcia Fudge: (32:52)
Thank you so much Mr. Chairman. Chairman Leahy, Vice Chairman Shelby and distinguished members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, thank you so much for this opportunity to appear before you today. Mr. Chairman, before I begin my testimony, I would very much like to take a moment to express my condolences at the passing of former Vice President, Walter Mondale, a former member of this body who along with Senator Ed Brooke, championed the 1968 Fair Housing Act. HUD will honor his legacy by redoubling our efforts to use housing as a platform that advances equality and opportunity for the American people. Efforts which include the plan we are here to discuss, The American Jobs Plan. The plan lays the foundation for decades of economic growth and reflects what I believe are fundamental truths that the definition of infrastructure has evolved and that indeed housing is infrastructure. As a member of Congress for nearly 13 years, I have the highest regard for this institution. I am committed as I know this administration is committed to working with Congress to create millions of good jobs, rebuild…
Marcia Fudge: (34:03)
… congress to create millions of good jobs, rebuild our country’s infrastructure and help America become more competitive on the global stage. To do so, we must first take care of home in the most literal sense. The American Jobs Plan would achieve this goal by prioritizing efforts to address our nation’s severe shortage of affordable housing. Even before COVID-19, almost 11 million Americans were paying more than half of their income on rent. Since then, the pandemic has put low-income households and communities of color at disproportionate risk of losing their homes. The American Jobs Plan confronts the affordable housing crisis head on. It invests $213 billion to produce, preserve and retrofit more than two million affordable and sustainable places to live. This includes more than one million resilient, accessible, and energy efficient rental homes. In addition, the plan includes a new federal tax credit as proposed in the Neighborhood Homes Investment Act that could lead to the construction and renovation of approximately 500,000 single family homes over the next decade.
Marcia Fudge: (35:14)
At the same time, the American Jobs Plan, recognizes that investments alone won’t solve the affordable housing crisis. In addition, we must eliminate barriers to producing affordable housing and expanding housing choices for people with low or moderate incomes. To solve this problem, the American Jobs Plan calls for an approach that awards flexible funding to local jurisdictions that take steps to eliminate regulations like minimum lot size or mandatory parking requirements. These types of regulations drive up the cost of producing affordable housing and can lock people out of neighborhoods with greater opportunity. Furthermore, the American Jobs Plan addresses longstanding public housing capital needs. Nearly two million people live in public housing, including families, seniors, and people with disabilities. Housing quality plays a key role in the health of our families and communities, yet nearly half of our public housing inventory is more than 50 years old. This means things may have hazards like mold or lead paint that can be expensive to remediate. The American Jobs Plan calls for an investment of $40 billion to improve public housing infrastructure. This is not just a safety issue, but a racial justice issue as well, as more than one million people of color live in public housing. Further more investments in public housing that helped reduce energy use, increase resilience or fortify against extreme weather can mitigate the impacts of climate change. Finally, I would like to mention two other major investments in the American Jobs Plan. They are $111 billion investment to replace 100% of the nation’s led pipes and service lines and a historic $100 billion investment to bring affordable, reliable high-speed broadband to every American.
Marcia Fudge: (37:12)
These investments are critical to building safer, stronger, and more connected communities. The American Jobs Plan is a once in a century investment in America’s infrastructure that will advance how we live for generations to come. It recognizes that to build our economy and our country back better than before, we need to invest not just in roads and bridges, but in housing, in clean drinking water and in a modernized electrical grid that can withstand the impacts of climate change. To put it simply, the American Jobs Plan advances, physical infrastructure that lays the foundation for human infrastructure. Our country can not afford to look backward at what we once viewed as the definition of infrastructure, the future of our great nation rests on the decisions we make today.
Chairman Leahy: (38:02)
Well, thank you very much all of you. And I appreciate also, Madam Secretary, what you just said about infrastructure. I’ve heard many say that the president’s proposal has little to do with infrastructure and I think that’s because they define the term too narrowly. As I said earlier, we can no longer view infrastructure as just roads and bridges and rail highways. It’s about our capacity to grow in a global economy and actually be able to compete and not fall way behind the rest of the world. It’s about America impeding on the world stage and that’s why we call it the American Jobs Act. Secretary Buttigieg, what’s your response to the criticism of some that this package has little to do with infrastructure?
Pete Buttigieg: (39:05)
[inaudible 00:39:05]. Sorry. I will learn how to use this microphone. As the secretary of transportation, I’m especially enthusiastic about what it means for roads, bridges, ports, waterways, airports, rail, and transit. But I think it would be a terrible mistake for us to suppose that that’s all there is to infrastructure. Much has been said about the term traditional infrastructure. But America’s greatest tradition of visionary infrastructure investments has always included decisions that expand the horizon. The interstate highway system might not have been considered traditional infrastructure at one time. Railroads were not traditional infrastructure until we built them. And so at a moment like this, when we know that an internet connection is as important as an interstate connection in order to succeed in today’s economy, we think it’s absolutely time to have a wider concept of the idea of infrastructure because all of these things go into that foundation for American competitiveness and for a good life available to all Americans.
Chairman Leahy: (40:12)
[inaudible 00:40:12] see, I’m learning it too. Approximately 60,000 addresses in Vermont lacks access to quality high-speed broadband, that’s roughly 20% of Vermont households. That includes the Leahy’s household, I pay full price for it. Some days it works, most days it doesn’t. Vermont’s downtown, village centers, schools and libraries largely have good connectivity, but gaps in the network are in the most rural areas of the state, where private companies decided it’s not profitable to build out that last mile. So Secretary Raimondo, Vermont wants to make serious inroads to connect to every corner of the state. How does the administration broadband infrastructure ensure not only that can happen quickly, but then it reaches the places where it’s needed the most?
Gina Raimondo: (41:20)
Thank you. The president’s Jobs Plan calls for all Americans to have access to high quality affordable broadband. And there’s an emphasis on speed and there’s no compromise with respect to the fact that all means all. That includes tribal lands, rural lands, mountainous lands, et cetera. And I’ve had the opportunity to talk to many of you about this. At the moment, commerce is in the process of implementing the one and a half billion dollars from the last package for tribal broadband. And the emphasis is on speed and quality, and that’s a down payment on the hundred billion dollars proposed in the Jobs Plan, which we believe is enough to ensure that every American has access to high quality broadband. And we will be working in conjunction with the FCC and Department of Agriculture to ensure that this becomes a reality.
Chairman Leahy: (42:25)
I look at the previous funding rounds, we had the FCC Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, gave auction winners seven years to construct their networks, but it included no penalties that they failed on their commitments. Do you have any concern that you have an auction or a bidding model, it could well subsidized corporations or satellite technology?
Marcia Fudge: (42:53)
So we have studied, I have looked at prior programs, including the BTOP Program and we’re learning from them and we won’t make the same mistakes again. The jobs package is clear that we will work with the entities that are in the best position to provide broadband. And if that is a non-profit or a co-op or a municipal operation, then that’s how we will operate. We will also consider alternatives to fiber in the cases where that is the best, most effective way to deliver broadband.
Chairman Leahy: (43:30)
Well, thank you. And my office will work with you. My time is up. So I’m going to just give to Administrator Regan a question for the record, because we know that the infrastructure is no longer just our bridges and roads and all. Our natural infrastructure farmland, watersheds, and so on, is important. So I’m going to ask how EPA can coordinate with other agencies in making sure we protect our wetlands, our watersheds, and so forth. My staff will give you that question and I would appreciate the answer. Senator Shelby.
Senator Shelby: (44:22)
In the area that we’ve been talking about at competing China, the American Jobs Plan promises to position the US to out-compete China, by providing massive subsidies to grow domestic manufacturing capabilities in certain segments of the economy. Secretary Raimondo, I would like to ask you about the sustainability of this approach, which I view is having the US emulate China rather than defeat it. If we go down this road, will the American taxpayers ever be off the hook? And in a capitalistic economy like ours, why is this approach so an effective way to defeat China? Ms. Secretary.
Gina Raimondo: (45:13)
Thank you for that question. And an incredibly important question. It is not an exaggeration to say at the moment that we have a crisis in our supply chain. Not that long ago, America led the world in making leading edge semiconductor chips. Today we produce 0% of those chips in America, 0%. That’s a national security risk and an economic security risk. The Department of Defense has been warning us for years, that the decline in our small and medium size manufacturers in critical supply chains is a national security risk. So I hear you. I hear the concern that this might look like a subsidy to profitable companies. And again, I understand that. That is not what this is.
Gina Raimondo: (46:07)
This is an investment in research and development to ensure that we can protect ourselves. We are totally reliant on Taiwan and China for critical supply. The last thing I’ll say is we will implement this program in a way that requires these companies to have skin in the game. It’s not a giveaway. They will have to make investments two, three, four times as much private capital, as you said, public, private partnerships to fully leverage what I believe and the president believes are necessary public investments to maintain our national and economic security.
Senator Shelby: (46:41)
Secretary Buttigieg, the American Jobs Plan also promises transformative investments that will turn quote shovel-ready shovel worthy items into shovel ready ones. We all remember, well, the shovel ready projects that were promised as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Those projects for the most part and the jobs that were supposed to come with them, never materialized. How will this time be different from what we’ve had before, Mr. Secretary?
Pete Buttigieg: (47:24)
Thank you for your question, Mr. Vice Chairman. I would say that certainly in my part of the country, we were glad for the resources that came our way by way of the 2009 Recovery and Reinvestment Act, but I think it’s very important to make clear that this bill is not about short-term economic stimulus, it’s about long-term economic competitiveness. There is certainly a backlog of what might be called shovel-ready projects. We estimate something on the order of a trillion dollars, just in terms of the maintenance need of America’s transportation infrastructure. But we’re also interested in supporting planning, supporting development, supporting the steps that will make sure that projects that might go into the ground at a later date are ready to go. Again, I would not view this as something that’s just about getting through this season, which I know was part of why we needed the American Rescue Plan so urgently, but really about making sure that by the time I retire, I can look back on the choices we made now and know that they set America on a healthy path for the longer term.
Senator Shelby: (48:29)
I mentioned in my opening statement specifically, and I want to get into it a little. For years, a lot of us have been frustrated by the fixation on building new things over responsibly investing in existing infrastructure. I think we need to do both always. We’ve got to look to the future, but we’ve got to where we are today. We have a lot of crumbling infrastructure in this country. Look at the interstate highways, look at bridges that are unsafe and all this. Look at airports that need to be modernized. We can go on and on and on. But shouldn’t we spend a lot of money on what we’re doing to bring everything up to par and also look to the future? A combination rather than just have a theory.
Pete Buttigieg: (49:19)
Yes, very much so. The phrase we use around our department is fix it first. The idea that we got to make sure we take care of what we’ve got, but to that we might add fix it right, especially in the context of resilience. If a road that was built a certain way 50 years ago is washing out on an annual basis, it might not make sense to rebuild it on an annual basis right the way it was in the wake of increased, frequent and severe weather. So, we certainly agree with you that it needs to be both. Look into the future, but looking after what we’ve got.
Senator Shelby: (49:51)
Mr. Secretary, you’ve been in the private sector and you understand that there is so much more money in the private sector looking for good investment, as you well know, than it is with us trying to tax the people and spend on worthy projects and so forth. How do we address that shortfall? In other words, we should be embracing some type of partnership of some kind, using some taxpayers money to access a lot of private capital that’s in it to make a profit, as you know, they have to do that. But there’s so much money out there. How do we do that?
Pete Buttigieg: (50:35)
Well, to the extent that there is private capital that can be responsibly mobilized toward our US-
Senator Shelby: (50:41)
Do you agree with me that there’s a lot more private capital looking for a good investment?
Pete Buttigieg: (50:46)
Senator Shelby: (50:48)
So how do we do it?
Pete Buttigieg: (50:49)
Well, we can build on some authorities and programs that we have. I would point to the Private Activity Bond Authority, PABS that we use in the department, but certainly recognize there are other areas we could also explore to mobilize that private side capital.
Senator Shelby: (51:02)
To Secretary Raimondo, the American Jobs Plan proposes an expenditure of $50 billion, $50 billion for a new office at the Department of Commerce dedicated to monitoring domestic industrial capacity. I don’t know what that means. And funding investments to support production of critical goods. We mentioned this earlier. We have the Defense Production Act, we’ve got DARPA, we’ve got a lot of things going out there. What will this new office do specifically, that’s not being done today and how will the funding be used? And what chain benefits would this new office provide that isn’t possible under existing authorities, such as the Defense Production Act? We’ve been on the cutting edge of technology as far as national security has helped America stay free, but what will this office do? Will it be another bureaucracy, another layer, or what do you envision?
Gina Raimondo: (52:13)
Thank you. Thank you for the question. Over the past 30 years, we have seen an unbelievable decline in manufacturing, in a number of critical areas, metals, critical minerals, semiconductors, lithography, medicine, pharmaceuticals. I’ll tell you, it was just about a year ago, it was the governor and your governor is probably doing the same thing. We were up all night long, calling all around the world to try to get our hands on ventilators and PPE. And they weren’t being made here. They were in China and Vietnam, and that was a scary place to be. So what the Department of Commerce needs to do now, in partnership with DOD is to do a really extensive, detailed technical look at where our vulnerabilities are and then build again, so we make these critical elements in America. That could be loans to small and medium-sized companies, that could be research and development, that could be partnerships with universities. We have to build it up again, not just to create jobs, but frankly, to protect our national security when we need to have these critical items produced on our shores.
Chairman Leahy: (53:32)
Thank you, [crosstalk 00:53:33]. Thank you, Senator Feinstein.
Senator Feinstein: (53:33)
Thanks very much, Mr. Chairman. I am here representing a state that is 12% of the nation’s population. We’re bigger than 21 small states and the District of Columbia put together. Our GDP is bigger than the 25 smallest states combined. We’ve got over 1500 bridges, 14,000 miles of highway in need of repair. Our drinking water requirements require 51 billion in additional funding and White House figures say that 3,127,000 Californians are rent burden. We are going to have real future problems due to our size. I think this is a very good bill. I’m really proud of the administration for putting it forward. Of course, I’m a former mayor and infrastructure is extraordinarily important. But my question is, how are you going to make sure that the money this Congress provides in this bill is going to go where it’s really needed?
Pete Buttigieg: (55:00)
Senator, if I may take that up from a transportation perspective, and then I’ll defer to my colleagues for other examples. But it’s very important to us to make sure that funding is equitably distributed and done with a view toward the public policy goals, that the communities in every state, including yours will put forward. We have a focus on sustainability and equity, and we know that communities in every part of the country can put forward a compelling case for funding and look forward to being better able to meet that need should the American Jobs Plan give us the tools to do it.
Senator Feinstein: (55:34)
Okay. I know it’s a hard question for you to answer, but it’s also a critical one. It’s my understanding that the infrastructure plan would include 213 billion, excuse me, to address the shortage of affordable housing. Does the administration’s infrastructure proposal include resources for emergency shelters and transitional housing in order to meet the needs of families currently experiencing homelessness?
Marcia Fudge: (56:12)
Senator, thank you so much for your question. Yes, in fact, in the rescue plan, there was $5 billion set aside for those who are homeless or at risk of being homeless, as well as another $5 billion to address how we deal with housing emergency housing voucher. So those things were actually in the Rescue Plan and we are looking forward to getting the kind of data and oversight that is needed to make sure that it is being used in the way that it has been appropriate. And we’ll be working on it through this plan as well.
Senator Feinstein: (56:46)
I think that’s very important and I thank you for it. Do you include resources for emergency shelters and transitional housing in order to meet the needs of individuals and families who are currently homeless?
Marcia Fudge: (57:00)
Senator Feinstein: (57:02)
Could you explain that a little bit, please?
Marcia Fudge: (57:03)
Yes. In the Rescue Plan, we have emergency vouchers that can be used for temporary housing. And of course our goal is stable long-term housing, but it is emergency housing. As well as one of the things I can say about California that is going so very well, in places like Los Angeles, they have actually gone about purchasing hotels and motels and using them, even the ones they haven’t purchased to take people off the streets and to get them into at least temporary, but in some instances, permanent housing. We know that on any given night, 580,000 people are homeless in this country. And so I appreciate the fact that you asked the question and we really are making every effort possible to be sure that we can eradicate at least in the short term, get people off the streets.
Senator Feinstein: (57:54)
Well, let me just make this comment. I thank you for that statement. I hope the administration follows through. I am really concerned because if you take a state like mine, which is big and on its surface, looks to be one thing. The better you know it, the more you see it’s many other things and they are needy and they need help, and the help is necessary because it also fuels a huge economy. So I thank you very much for the response and thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Leahy: (58:29)
Thank you very much. Senator from Maine, Senator Collins.
Secretary Collins: (58:34)
Thank you Mr. Chairman. First, let me welcome all of our witnesses today. Secretary Buttigieg, I’m going to start with you. I have long advocated for a robust infrastructure package, and I agree with the phrase you used today that fig set first should guide our approach. However, when I look at President Biden’s proposal, it does not seem to embody that philosophy. For example, the administration’s proposal, as you know, would spend $174 billion on electric vehicles, subsidies, charging stations, and other provisions compared to spending 157 billion on roads, bridges, ports, airports, and waterways combined. Now it’s certainly appropriate to look ahead and to accommodate future and cleaner modes of transportation. But what the administration is doing is spending billions more on subsidies related to electric vehicles, spend on the roads and bridges on which they will travel. Could you explain that?
Pete Buttigieg: (01:00:07)
Sure. And thank you for the question. The roads and bridges and highways of this country have of course, a multi-layered set of resources to support them. When it comes to electric vehicles, we are much earlier in America’s story. And what we see now is that the story is beginning to show America falling behind. We believe robust public investment is needed in order to make sure that America leads the future when it comes to electric vehicles, especially from the perspective of making sure that the electric vehicles of the world are made on American soil by American workers. And we think that in order for that to happen in a way that might be reminiscent, perhaps of how the US aviation sector might not have blossomed the way it did, if not for New Deal era investments and airports across the country, that this does require good public policy in order to support the flourishing of a market that we think will put so many Americans to work, as well as help meet our climate goals.
Secretary Collins: (01:01:11)
Secretary Fudge, I want him to turn to you for my next question and welcome you with swell to the committee.
Marcia Fudge: (01:01:19)
Secretary Collins: (01:01:21)
Safe, affordable housing has long been a goal of Senator Jack Reed and me as we chaired or acted as ranking member of the THUB sub committee. I also led the floor fight to preserve the fair housing regulations during President Obama’s administration. I am concerned however that the administration is taking a very heavy handed approach to achieving the goal of affordable housing, and let me give you the specific. The administration’s proposal includes $5 billion for a new grant program to be awarded to jurisdictions that make changes in local zoning laws. And I am troubled by having the administration, the federal government dictate local zoning laws. I would also now that that $5 billion is larger than the entire funding for the Community Development Block Grant Program, which is arguably the nation’s most popular and certainly has been its largest community development program.
Secretary Collins: (01:02:51)
Will the administration Thai access to other federal funding to changes in local zoning laws and land use policies in your department?
Marcia Fudge: (01:03:07)
First off, thank you so much for the question and thank you for the conversations we’ve had about a fair housing Senator. Let me first say that the $5 billion, it’s not a mandate, it’s not a dictate. What the plan is is to have a discussion with communities about how we could make zoning less exclusionary and more inclusionary. It I’m a former mayor, I would never be in support of demanding or dictating that communities have to change their zoning to do a certain thing. But I think it is, important, as we are talking about building and or retrofitting or rehabilitating, whatever term you’d like to use, housing. We know that the cost of those are significantly higher when the zoning is more restrictive. So this is more an incentive, a more a conversation, but I’d love to have this conversation with you going forward, because I think it’s important.
Secretary Collins: (01:04:03)
Thank you. Thank you, Ms. Chairman
Chairman Leahy: (01:04:11)
I believe Senator Reed is going to be joining us virtually, is that correct? No? Then Senator Tester who is here not only virtually, but definitely actually.
Senator Tester: (01:04:29)
That’s exactly right, Mr. Chairman. I’m here in all my good looks. Thank you and thank Senator Shelby for having this sharing. And I want to thank everybody who’s testifying and I appreciate all your good work. I’m going to start with Secretary Raimondo. Secretary 20 years ago, I’m not sure that broadband would be part of any infrastructure bill, but things have changed. And quite frankly, the fact that this pandemic has pointed out that whether you want to do business or you want to do telehealth or you want to do distance learning, broadband’s pretty damn important. And I am pleased at President Biden proposed a substantial investment in high-speed internet in this plan. But I’m going to tell you that connecting folks, especially in rural America is going to take more than money. It’s going to take good maps. It’s going to take a workforce to put in the infrastructure.
Senator Tester: (01:05:20)
It’s going to take identifying carriers with the best solutions and a commitment to building out the hardest reached areas. And the bottom line is that any new broadband investment has to be targeted to rural areas that don’t have service or are underserved, and it has to be done in a way that’s going to get results. So Secretary Raimondo, would you agree that securing high-speed internet for all Americans and just going to be about money is going to be about a lot more than that, and how are you going to address those challenges?
Marcia Fudge: (01:05:56)
Thank you for the question. And thank you for, we’ve talked about this a few times. It’s absolutely about more than money, although we need the money as well. It’s going to require a great consultation with the communities. For example, we in commerce have had extensive conversations in the past month with tribal communities. I know my experience as governor, as people in the community know best what the needs are. And so it will require that. It will require better maps. And we’ve already started working the FCC to have more better, and more granular maps. NTIA is working on that. We have better data than we did for instance, during the BTOP Program, it’s going to require flexibility, working with whatever carriers, whether that be the big carriers or smaller or co-ops or non-profits, who are the best position to provide access, and I think it will require an openness to embracing different technologies.
Senator Tester: (01:07:00)
Okay. So, there is money in this bill for workforce, generally speaking. The question becomes that if we pass this bill, the workforce is going to take a minute or two, actually several months, probably a year, maybe not that much, but certainly some time to get out so they’re available. How do you address that problem?
Marcia Fudge: (01:07:19)
So what we are contemplating is to use some of the money to include workforce training and putting people to work in the process of providing the broadband.
Senator Tester: (01:07:31)
Okay. Secretary Fudge, housing is a huge issue in this country. I don’t care if you’re talking about Ohio or Montana or big city, small city. In Montana is truly an anchor on our economy and I think it could be said that way throughout the country. Entrepreneurs can’t start up businesses cause they’ve got no place for their employees to potentially live. Existing businesses. Can’t expand because they got no places for their additional employees to live. It’s a big problem. Affordability-
Senator Tester: (01:08:02)
It’s a big problem, affordability is huge. And by the way, I didn’t get into affordability with you, Secretary Armando, but that’s equally as important as putting the fiber in the ground. Same thing in housing, we can put money in, we can potentially do tax credits, we can potentially develop public private partners, some want to do entirely public. I don’t care how you go about it. The point is how do you ensure that people can afford to buy the final product?
Marcia Fudge: (01:08:33)
Thank you so much, Senator. We know that the cost of housing today has far outpaced wages. We know that housing affordability is one of the major problems in this country. The things that we are trying to do to assist with making sure that the housing is affordable are a number of them. One is of course we have RAD, which we know has been helpful. We know that if we can use the low income housing tax credits, as well as the new tax credits that the President has proposed, we can make the cost affordable.
Marcia Fudge: (01:09:09)
In addition, there are options most people don’t talk about. There’s manufactured housing. There are multifamily units that we can put on a long-term basis to make sure that the rents are moderated and provide the kind of oversight we need. But the thing that we have to do first is to fix what we’ve got. We have housing that is more than 50 years old, where some, almost 2 million people live. So we have to get those properties up to code, in most instances, and make sure that they remain affordable.
Senator Tester: (01:09:45)
So you can answer this in writing afterwards, but you tell me how we’re going to do that on existing housing. Whether it’s going to be direct grants, whether it’s going to be buy down of loans. What it’s going to be through this bill, if you can. I agree with you, I just, I think the devil is somewhat in the detail. If we could do that, that’d be great.
Marcia Fudge: (01:10:04)
Well there’s home money in this bill that is more than flexible for doing things like building new houses or renovating houses. There is more money in CDBG, which of course we know is flexible. And there are also resources solely set aside to build affordable housing. So I’d love to talk with you afterwards, but there are resources in the Jobs bill.
Senator Tester: (01:10:24)
I appreciate that. Here’s my concern, both with broadband and housing, and that is that we put the money in. The financial institutions they need to make money, but they don’t need to make it all, same thing with the developers, same thing with the builders. We just got to make sure this is affordable in the end. It’s critically important, I might add, but we got to make sure it’s affordable. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Leahy: (01:10:44)
Thank you, Senator Tester. And Senator Murkowski.
Senator Murkowski: (01:10:48)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you to each of you for being here this morning and for your service. I think I’ve had an opportunity to speak with almost all of you about some of the considerations in Alaska, the unique aspects. I hear the comment that the definition of infrastructure has evolved. Well in certain parts of my state, there’s nothing to fix, there’s no crumbling infrastructure because we haven’t built it yet. There’s no lead in the water pipes because we don’t have the water pipes. So for me, basic infrastructure is really just that.
Senator Murkowski: (01:11:25)
But as we recognize, as my friend from Montana has said, broadband is one of those tools that if we don’t have it, we’re not a participant in the broader market out there. But again, when I think about a transportation infrastructure, we don’t have a transportation grid so to speak in Alaska. We don’t have an energy grid so to speak. We have micro grids. When I think about the roads, rails, and bridges, I also recognize that I come from a state where 80% of our communities are not connected by road. And I’m not looking to connect them by road, but we have access to water that we would like to be able to utilize more readily to connect these communities.
Senator Murkowski: (01:12:10)
So Secretary Buttigieg, we’re looking to develop a more fulsome proposal for our Alaska Marine Highway System, recognizing that ferries are like your bus in your community, just a little bit longer distance and the path is on a different surface. So know that I’m seeking to look to work with you on that.
Senator Murkowski: (01:12:36)
Secretary Raimondo, when we’re talking about broadband, we are, again, in a little bit different situation. There’s about 40% of Alaskans that have been identified as not having access as we are defining access to broadband. But to Senator Tester’s point, it’s not just about access, it’s then affordability. We’re seeing families, in certain parts of the state, where they’re paying an additional $800 per month for their internet, because they’ve got to be online for business purposes, the kids have to be online for schooling purposes. That’s not accessibility to broadband. So the affordability piece is absolutely key. And it is building out in all ways.
Senator Murkowski: (01:13:24)
When you have a state that’s one fifth of the size of the United States of America, we’re not going to be able to connect everything by fiber, it’s just not possible. So what are we doing to connect, utilizing our satellites. We need the cell towers. We need kind of all of the above. We need an all of the above energy approach, but we need an all of the above broadband approach, if you will, as well. So I ask that you work with us on the Alaska plan.
Senator Murkowski: (01:13:47)
I’m going to direct my comments or my questions, I guess, to Administrator Regan. And I appreciate your role in all of this as we talk about water and wastewater. I’ve been with the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee for some years now and spent a lot of time looking at the water and our water resources. Within the president’s proposal, it’s $111 billion for water infrastructure and other water related efforts. This is a remarkable amount for one time investment. You noted in your testimony, the state revolving funds in their history have provided approximately $189 billion in financial assistance. If we look to the FY21 budget, the EPA was funded at $9.3 billion in total. So this is a massive amount of investment. We know that we have to maintain proper oversight to guard against waste and fraud.
Senator Murkowski: (01:14:48)
How do you execute? How do you execute this and how do you do so in a way that, again, provides for that level of oversight, that is important, but also recognizes that you’ve got a great degree of discrepancy and disparity between say for instance, a Flint, Michigan that is replacing all of their infrastructure and small native, very remote and very expensive communities that have absolutely nothing other than the honey bucket that they currently use?
Michael Regan: (01:15:21)
Well, thank you for that question, Senator. And the good news is we have experience doing this to the point you made. We’ve been operating with water infrastructure grants and loan programs for quite some time, over $19 billion worth of grants given out over a number of years. And we’ve created hundreds of thousands of jobs. The reality is, in many Alaskan native villages, as you know, they don’t have any drinking water and wastewater capabilities right now. I believe, in Alaska, you all have over $1 billion in water infrastructure needs. In my home state of North Carolina, there’s somewhere between $17 and $20 billion with the infrastructure needs.
Michael Regan: (01:15:56)
The Affordable Jobs Plan does look at $111 billion for water infrastructure needs, while the country needs or requires $743, so this is an excellent start to invest in our water infrastructure, but we have a long way to go. The good news is EPA has experience in administering these programs, partnering with local governments to look at where the needs are the most and ensure that we have the proper oversight to get those precious resources where they’re needed the most. It is a ramp up, but it’s a ramp up that’s required to keep this country competitive.
Senator Murkowski: (01:16:35)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Leahy: (01:16:38)
Thank you, Senator Murkowski. And Senator Shaheen.
Senator Shaheen: (01:16:43)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you to each of our witnesses for your testimony today and for your great work.
Senator Shaheen: (01:16:50)
I want to start with you, Secretary Buttigieg, because for year New Hampshire has had the lowest apportionments in the country from Federal Formula Grant Programs administered by the Federal Transit Administration and the Highway Administration. And just to give you some example, in 2021 we received roughly $181 million in federal highway funding. Now, that’s the lowest in the country and far less than our neighboring state of Vermont, which received roughly $222 million. Now I would never suggest that the state of Vermont, home to my neighboring senators and of course the Chairman of this committee, doesn’t deserve that $222 million. I just want to know how New Hampshire can get parity with what’s happening with the rest of the country and I know that Congress and the Department have been reluctant to open up formula issues in the past, but at this point we need to do something about the lack of parity. So can you talk about how you see maybe approaching that issue and what measures and formula factors might help address those inequities?
Pete Buttigieg: (01:18:01)
Well thank you for the question and certainly it would be so important not only in the context of the Jobs Plan, but our ongoing work to make sure that there’s a sense of equitable distribution of these funds. And I’d be eager to spend a little more time understanding some of the dynamics that have led to this disparity that you’re discussing in New Hampshire.
Pete Buttigieg: (01:18:22)
What I would say is that we think we should always be looking both at the way we do things and at the discretionary programs that are opening up, especially as we’re working to make sure that the terms of the discretionary programs reflect public policy priorities, that I know are important in New Hampshire, around economic security, as well as things like climate readiness and equity. And so would welcome a chance to discuss this further and look at what we can do so that no one living in any state of the US would wonder whether their home area is getting a fair share.
Senator Shaheen: (01:18:52)
Thank you, you will hear from us.
Pete Buttigieg: (01:18:55)
Senator Shaheen: (01:18:55)
Administrator Regan, I’m very pleased at the American Jobs Plan calls for $10 billion for drinking water, specifically to address PFAS pollution, which has turned up in a number of communities in New Hampshire caused significant problems. And as you know is becoming a bigger issue around the country. Can you talk about more specifics around how that $10 billion is going to be used and give us some assurances that it’s going to be available to some of those households who depend on private wells that have been contaminated through PFAS?
Michael Regan: (01:19:38)
Well, thank you for that question. And unfortunately, too many of us have firsthand experience with the devastation of PFAS and our drinking water and what it means for public health and also what it means for economic impact to many of our local communities. That money specifically will focus on monitoring and remediating these pervasive problems that we’re seeing all across the country. EPA has prioritized the PFAS topic from day one, we’re looking forward and moving aggressively to setting a drinking water standard. We’re also looking at partnering with many communities all across the country to think about how we can do a better job monitoring these pervasive chemicals and also remediating in the areas that are in most need.
Senator Shaheen: (01:20:23)
And so will there be help available to private well owners who have been affected by PFAS, in some form?
Michael Regan: (01:20:30)
Small water systems households, I believe we may be considering private wells, I’ll have to take a look at that. But we do know that this problem has been particularly impactful in our rural communities, which will have a tremendous amount of private well owners as well.
Senator Shaheen: (01:20:50)
Well, thank you. I hope that that will be something that you’ll look at as part of providing help. You talked about the standards that EPA is still trying to determine. That’s created a real challenge for us in New Hampshire. Our first identification of PFAS pollution was at the former Pease Air Force Base. And the Air Force has been very accommodating in coming in and trying to help address remediation there, but one of the challenges has been the difference between the EPA’s standard, which is, I think, 70 parts per trillion and the standard that’s been set by New Hampshire’s Department of Environmental Services, which is much lower than that. So can you talk about how you’re looking at that standard and when you expect to have something that might be more in keeping with what’s happening across the rest of the country?
Michael Regan: (01:21:47)
Absolutely. I think that the federal government is playing catch up to where many of the states have had to step in. So we’ve ramped up the machinery, we’re moving as aggressively as we can taking a look at what progressive states have done, like my home state of North Carolina and others, to address this, but look at where the science is also leading us so that we can set a level playing field across all of our states. In addition to that, in addition to looking at the science, looking at what other states are doing and preparing for setting of standards, we’re in conversations with the Department of Defense as well, to better understand all of the players and what we need to do to address these pervasive contaminants as quickly as possible.
Senator Shaheen: (01:22:34)
Well, thank you. I look forward to seeing what the EPA comes up with, and as you point out, it’s a huge issue.
Chairman Leahy: (01:22:42)
And I believe next in line is Senator Blunt.
Senator Blunt: (01:22:47)
Thank you, Chairman, and again, welcome to all of you today. Thanks for being to serve in these jobs that have so much impact on the lives of every American every day. Let me focus a little bit on the road and bridge, the traditional infrastructure elements of this package. Now Missouri’s right in the middle of the country and we can make the case that the rivers come together, the roads come together, the railroads come together where we live, so it’s critically important to us that we get this right. Secretary Buttigieg, I’m a little unclear in the President’s proposal how the current Highway Trust Fund fits in. Do you see that as a revenue source or do you see your proposal for roads and bridges above what would have happened in the current spending of the Highway Trust Fund?
Pete Buttigieg: (01:23:46)
Thank you for the question and the chance to explain this. We would regard it as the latter. In other words, part of why the American Jobs Plan contemplates a means to fully pay for everything laid out in the President’s priorities is so that it could be fitted alongside what would take place in terms of the regular process of surface authorization and appropriations. Other things that do draw on the Highway Trust Fund. So the funding structure that you see, but also just the level at which we propose investing, is designed based on the expectation that there would be in parallel, the work that needs to take place in the sort of regular pattern of looking after those needs.
Senator Blunt: (01:24:30)
Well, let’s go ahead and talk about the Trust Fund for a minute. You mentioned, and I think in response to a question about vehicles on the highway that don’t fill up at the gas pump, don’t pay the gas tax, increasing number of vehicles that will mostly be electric, but I’m not sure exactly how propane vehicles are affected in the future or battery or other kinds of power besides electric power that might be out there. What are we thinking? We’ve got a Highway Trust Fund that produces about $300 billion over eight years and spends about $500 billion, if we stay on the current formula, is that gap acceptable for the future? Or do we need to be looking at electric vehicles? Do we need to be looking at whatever extra costs the system has to bear because of driverless vehicles? How do we continue to make this system, as much as possible, sustained by the people who actually use the system as opposed to people who don’t?
Pete Buttigieg: (01:25:40)
So, as you say, there is a gap between the traditional revenue sources coming into the Highway Trust Fund and the needs that the Trust Fund looks after. Up until now, that gap has been met by general fund transfers, whether that is to become a policy, I suppose, is something we would need to continue discussing with Congress. But again, I would stress that in the context of the Jobs Plan, we have a proposal that fully funds these once in a lifetime capital investments on its own terms. And of course, it’s very important to the president to keep his promise, not to propose a plan that would raise taxes on Americans making less than $400,000 a year.
Senator Blunt: (01:26:22)
So is there a way to deal with that ongoing maintenance issue for people who make more than $400,000 a year or companies that use the highways, the roads, the bridges as well?
Pete Buttigieg: (01:26:38)
Well, certainly that’s an example of an area that that’s separate from the individuals making less than $400,000. And we’ve heard from a lot of companies, a lot of businesses, expressing interest in being willing to contribute to greater revenue, because of course that benefit is felt on their bottom line, as well as by ordinary Americans. And I welcome the idea that this is a season for exploring the long-term future of how we can fund these priorities. Aside from the once in a generation opportunity we see in terms of the Jobs Plan.
Senator Blunt: (01:27:09)
Thank you, Secretary. Secretary Raimondo, I do want to associate myself with Senator Tester’s view that on broadband, we need to have access and that’s been our focus up until now. But as I think we talked about in your confirmation hearing, we also need to be thinking of affordability and from tele-health to going to school, to going to work, having access to a system, just because it runs by your house, doesn’t mean you necessarily have the ability to use it. So I’m interested in that.
Senator Blunt: (01:27:44)
But on this discussion today, I’m also interested in being sure that we have a system where we’re really trying to create that access model, to where we’re not over building, where people already have a broadband system they could become part of, or we’re not looking at maps that aren’t accurate and so we assume people have access to a system that’s just not there. Talk to me about those two issues a little bit.
Gina Raimondo: (01:28:20)
The priority is the unserved and the underserved, that is the clear priority and that is where we will focus. The maps today are better and more granular and NTIA is already working with and has been working with the FCC on the mapping to make sure it’s all… The answer is what you’re pointing out, it has to be decisions based upon the best data that we have.
Gina Raimondo: (01:28:44)
As to affordability, I hear you, and I appreciate your bringing it up. I’ll say I come from a very urban state where access isn’t so much the issue, it’s all affordability. So intuitively I very much understand where you’re coming from. We can talk at length, I know we’re out of time. I think that’s why we’re calling for more competition, more transparency, and subsidies in the short run where necessary.
Senator Blunt: (01:29:10)
Thank you. Thank you, Chairman.
Chairman Leahy: (01:29:14)
Thank you very much. And I understand that, try again, we’ll have Senator Reed of Rhode Island.
Senator Reed: (01:29:23)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Leahy: (01:29:25)
I hear him.
Senator Reed: (01:29:27)
Well, you’ve got the best of both worlds. You can hear me, but you can’t see me. So anyway-
Chairman Leahy: (01:29:31)
Now, we have you on the screen, thank you.
Senator Reed: (01:29:36)
Thank you. Let me direct a question to Secretary Raimondo and Secretary Buttigieg. I’ve been longer [inaudible 01:29:47] including schools in the American Infrastructure Plan, and in addition to that, libraries, because they play a critical role. And as a former Governor, Madame Secretary, could you comment on the importance of rehabilitating and rebuilding our schools and libraries as part of our infrastructure plan?
Gina Raimondo: (01:30:08)
Thank you for the question. It’s absolutely vital that we include schools and libraries in the rebuilding. And I would like to comment on Senator Reed’s longstanding advocacy for investments in libraries. I know firsthand in Rhode Island, it’s made a great difference to our communities. Schools matter, you and I, Senator, we worked together in Rhode Island to bring about a historic school building bond. It not only created jobs in the process of rebuilding schools, but it has given children what they deserve, which is the opportunity for a first class free public education in a state of the art building. As it relates to libraries, I often talk about how my grandfather, when he was an immigrant to this country, taught himself English in the library. Today libraries are so much more than just a place to get a book, it’s a place to find a job to have access to broadband, as we’ve been talking about, it’s in the community, it is a free public resource and I think the short answer to your question is it’s absolutely vital.
Senator Reed: (01:31:13)
Secretary Buttigieg, as a former Mayor, could you comment, please too?
Pete Buttigieg: (01:31:17)
Certainly we regarded libraries as a very important part of our ability to serve the community. And contrary to expectations, as Secretary Raimondo was saying, in many regards, their importance has actually grown and not diminished in the digital age. The same, of course, with regard to schools and to take the slice of it most adjacent to our work in the Department of Transportation, I’m especially enthusiastic about the school transportation part contemplated in the vision that Administrator Regan mentioned of making sure we support at least 20% of our yellow bus fleet being able to electrify. You talk to so many school superintendents and usually their number one or number two headache that they raise has to do with transportation. And we think many of the benefits in terms of cost operation and, of course, climate that come with electrifying that yellow bus fleet will be to the benefit of education more broadly.
Senator Reed: (01:32:16)
Well, thank you very much for mister Secretary. Secretary Raimondo, climate change is an issue we have to deal with, in fact we’ve waited to long. NOAA, which is in your department, is one of the critical agencies of the United States Government to deal with climate among other things. And it has a $1.6 billion backlog and infrastructure, including ships and dockage facilities. Could you comment on the needs you see to recapitalize NOAA?
Gina Raimondo: (01:32:47)
Thank you. The needs are extensive. In fact, I’ve spoken with many of the senators about vessels or aircraft or ports or NOAA labs in their states, and many of them are in poor repair. Of course, Senator Reed has been a strong advocate for the funding of the two NOAA vessels in Rhode Island and the lab associated with University of Rhode Island. The backlog is real. NOAA is at the frontline of all of the research and data collection and ocean mapping that is absolutely vital to our fight against climate change. And the backlog is extensive. And with the additional funding that President Biden is calling for, it will enable us to address the backlog and maintain and build the necessary infrastructure that NOAA needs in order to continue the fight against climate change. I will also say, as any Senator knows, having these vessels or aircraft or labs in your community also contributes to the economy, and that is another benefit of appropriating money to improve the infrastructure and deal with the backlog.
Senator Reed: (01:34:00)
Thank you very much, Madam Secretary. Thank you very much Mr. Chairman. Thank you.
Chairman Leahy: (01:34:05)
Thank you Senator Reed. And I believe we’re going to be joined remotely by Senator Moran. Is that correct? Senator Moran? And if he’s not, then we would go to Senator Hoeven. Is Senator Hoeven here? If not-
Speaker 1: (01:34:35)
Nope and we will go down to Cindy Hyde-Smith.
Chairman Leahy: (01:34:39)
… Senator Hyde-Smith who is here in actuality, not remotely. Go ahead, Senator.
Cindy Hyde-Smith: (01:34:51)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you Vice Chairman for convening this hearing today and to all of you, I certainly applaud your efforts and your willingness to serve this country. I do have, my question is going to be to Administrator Regan. I certainly appreciate you appearing before this committee and congratulate you on your recent confirmation to head EPA, very important agency in my state. But while I have a number of concerns regarding the American Jobs Plan, I am very pleased at the package proposed measures to advance racial equity and environmental justice.
Cindy Hyde-Smith: (01:35:31)
Today, I would like to discuss one of the most egregious environmental injustices that I have ever observed in my lifetime. And I certainly hope EPA, under your leadership, will be part of our solution. I’m referring to the Yazoo Backwater Project, a US Army Corps of Engineers flood control project authorized by Congress in 1941. Yes, I said 1941, before you and I were even born. The project features levees, drainage channels, flood gates, and pumping stations, which were designed to provide flood protection to a 926,000 acre area across six Mississippi counties. These counties are among the most rural and underserved in the entire nation. All of the flood control features had been completed except for the pumping stations and with an incomplete project, the Federal Government has spent hundreds of millions in taxpayer’s dollars over decades to create what is ultimately a giant bathtub, where the water has nowhere to go. The existing system prevents rainfall from leaving the area protected with the levees. A pumping station is necessary to take that water out. And if you see water on both sides of the levees, something is wrong.
Cindy Hyde-Smith: (01:37:01)
In 2007, the Corps was prepared to carry out the pumps, but under the EPA in 2008 exercised its rarely used authority under the Clean Water Act to veto the course then proposal. Where are we today? The area has experienced catastrophic flooding nine out of the last 10 years. I was Commissioner of Agriculture seven of those years. I was your Steve Troxler in North Carolina. The flooding has cost lives, homes, businesses, jobs, and billions to the economy and the American taxpayer. We could have paid for these pumps over, over again for what it has cost. It has also done substantial harm to the environment and sadly to the wildlife.
Cindy Hyde-Smith: (01:37:49)
Regarding environmental justice, as I stated previously, injustice, nearly 65% of the population is minority, 33% of the population lives in poverty, far above the national average, and the median household income is $31,393 far below the national average. Since 2010, the area population has declined by more than 10,000 and this is a beautiful area of our state. And I have worked on this for many years. People are losing their homes each year because they cannot afford flood insurance or they lose their jobs because they literally, they cannot get to work because they have to boat into their houses while fighting moccasins, I might add, and boat out.
Cindy Hyde-Smith: (01:38:42)
Businesses aren’t interested in locating there because the obvious reason, it is underwater for months on end. Fortunately, the Corps and EPA, this is good news, have worked very well over the past two years to address this issue. The Corps signed a record of decision on a new proposed plan in January. The EPA determined the new plan strikes an appropriate balance between flood control and the environment and more importantly, it is not subject to the 2008 404c veto. The Environmental Justice Appendix, according to the course final environmental document, concluded the proposed plan as designed would benefit low-income and minority populations in the Yazoo study area. It is my understanding that the EPA took action last month to review decisions it made in January under the previous administration. When EPA determined that the Corps’ new proposal was in the best interest of flood control and the environment and not subject to the 2008 veto.
Cindy Hyde-Smith: (01:39:54)
So we’re very, very pleased at this. We’ve come a long way. A half a million acres of farmland was underwater where the farmers could not even plant last year. So nine out of the 10 years, we have a significant problem here and very committed to working with you on trying to solve this for us. And I do feel like that you’re very committed to environmental justice and that you’re willing to help on an impartial review of that. And so I’m just asking you, if you could find time to come to Mississippi and look at this, I would greatly appreciate that. So I know I’m running out of time, but I so appreciate the opportunity to visit with you and to explain to you in this hearing what’s going on for a very long time. So that is all I had to say. Thank you very much.
Chairman Leahy: (01:40:45)
Thank you. And I see Senator Coons is returned from judiciary, so Senator Coons will be next.
Senator Coons: (01:40:55)
Thank you. Chairman Leahy, Vice Chairman Shelby, thank you to the four members of the President’s Cabinet for joining us today. It’s been a joy to meet with and talk to each of you in recent months, I’m excited to work with you on President Biden’s agenda to build back better our nation and to address the need for infrastructure investment and for the creation of jobs. It remains my hope that infrastructure investment can and should be a bipartisan priority, but we need to do what we can and be urgent about the important work of making our country more competitive and more resilient.
Senator Coons: (01:41:29)
If I might, one of the areas of the very broad proposal in the American Jobs Plan I’m excited about is the Civilian Climate Corps. Something that I’m supporting with a bipartisan authorizing bill, the Civilian Climate Corps Act. And I hope each of you, as we’ve discussed, will have some role for your respective agencies.
Senator Coons: (01:41:49)
Secretary Buttigieg, as you know, climate resiliency of rail infrastructure is of particular urgency to me and concern to me, given that I commute via Amtrak on some of the oldest bridges and tunnels in America, the Capitol maintenance backlog.
Senator Coons: (01:42:03)
… bridges and tunnels in America. The Capitol maintenance backlog in the Northeast Corridor is at least $38 billion, so I was pleased to see the American Jobs Plan includes $80 billion, of which about half of that may well be dedicated to bringing that up to a state of good repair. How do you think the department and Amtrak will be prepared to deploy this historic amount of capital in a timely and effective way?
Pete Buttigieg: (01:42:25)
Well, thanks for the question and for the attention to the urgency of work on the Northeast Corridor and in many parts of our national rail system. What we know is that many of these projects are well-defined and thoroughly designed. Others may still be in various stages of the pipeline, but we believe would be ready to go by the time funding reached them. As you point out, the Northeast Corridor it’s in one place specifically, but we would feel it all the way to Indiana and beyond if there were to be a single point of failure catching up to us. And so I would point not only to the $80 billion contemplated in the jobs plan, but also in our discretionary funding request, resources for Amtrak, and for passenger rail writ large that we believe can and will be deployed efficiently.
Senator Coons: (01:43:08)
Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Administrator Regan, I’ve just introduced the bipartisan and bicameral SCALE Act, which provides financing and authorization, programmatic support for large-scale carbon dioxide transport and storage infrastructure, storage infrastructure that’s critical to scaling up CCUS. I’m grateful that it’s specifically included in the American Jobs Plan. Could you tell me how you’re prioritizing actions that will move us towards our climate goals while also supporting job recovery from COVID-19 through the American Jobs Plan?
Michael Regan: (01:43:41)
Absolutely. I think it’s article that we look at all the tools in the toolbox and look at every bit of technology and research and development that we can. This has been a prior to conversation between myself and Secretary Granholm in terms of how do we support the research and development required for carbon storage, while we look at all of the available technologies that are already commercially available to reduce and mitigate against climate change. When we look at research and development and the advancement of these technologies, these are opportunities to demonstrate climate level discipline domestically, while developing emerging technologies by homegrown American jobs and talent that we can explore internationally. We know that if we’re first movers on mitigation of climate change while managing our climate footprint, that we have colleagues across the world that will not be a first mover and as quick as we are, so we’d love to develop the technologies and explore those technologies using the ingenuity of the American job force.
Senator Coons: (01:44:44)
Well, thank you. Mr. Administrator, I also think the point of the SCALE Act is to take existing technologies from demonstration scale to nationwide utility scale and to build the infrastructure necessary to move carbon dioxide and sequester it. I look forward to working with you on that. Secretary Raimondo, there are so many things in your department I’m excited to talk about. I don’t have time for all of it. I’m just going to pick two. The quadrupling of the manufacturing extension partnership, something in states large and small we’ve seen really have a tremendous impact, and $14 billion for NIST and under jewel of the Department of Commerce to work through Manufacturing USA, that network to bring together industry academia and government to advance cutting edge technologies. What role do you see NIST playing in overseeing Manufacturing USA, and how will that help revitalize our economy and get us on the cutting edge?
Gina Raimondo: (01:45:36)
I expect NIST to play a very active role. As we’ve discussed, since 1997, we’ve lost about a quarter of our small and medium-sized manufacturers, and the MEP is absolutely vital. In fact, I saw it work as governor. I know it works incredibly well in Delaware. It’s about providing job training, collaboration between research and development institutions and small manufacturers, small business loans. Manufacturing of today isn’t my dad’s manufacturing. It’s more advanced, it’s more technical, it’s more science-based, and if we’re going to compete, then we need to make these investments. So I’m excited for it, and not only will it create jobs, but it will shore up our industrial base, which unfortunately has eroded substantially.
Senator Coons: (01:46:27)
Thank you, Madam Secretary. I think Manufacturing USA is a smart demonstrated strategy and we should build on it. My last question, if I might, Secretary Fudge, housing provides the platform on which everything else good happens in families and communities. Without housing, you can’t build a community. I’m a grateful for the investments the president’s proposing in housing as infrastructure for communities. I’m a co-sponsor of the Neighborhood Homes Investment Act, a new federal tax credit to cover the cost of building or renovating a home in a distressed area. What gap do you think the Neighborhood Homes Investment Act will fill in the larger federal effort to make homes more affordable? And thank you for your indulgence, Mr. Chairman.
Marcia Fudge: (01:47:06)
First off, thank you for sponsoring it. One of the things that I’m excited about is that it is going to allow small businesses to get into this business and to work in communities where many of them already live. So it empowers a community, it creates jobs, and it keeps the cost down, so I think it’s an outstanding program and I’m hopeful that we can get it passed.
Senator Coons: (01:47:29)
Thank you. Thank you all. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Chairman Leahy: (01:47:29)
Thank you. Senator Hoeven.
John Hoeven: (01:47:31)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Secretary Buttigieg, I appreciate the opportunity to meet with President Biden and yourself yesterday at the White House and thought we had a very good discussion, so thank you for that. One of the things that we talked about is putting together a bill, a proposal. Obviously, the administration has its proposal, but another proposal may be, and I suggested from the EPW committee using the bill that they’ve put forward on transportation and using that as a base to build a proposal and with pay fors more focused on user fees rather than a tax increase and targeted at infrastructure. And so I think myself and others are interested in working on that in a bipartisan way. I like the idea that it’s a bill that is passed through the EPW committee, so it has bipartisan support already. We had some discussion on that, but I wanted to follow up with you and get your thoughts here at the hearing as well in regard to that approach and how you view it relative to, of course, the administration’s proposal from the standpoint of trying to get to a bipartisan solution.
Pete Buttigieg: (01:48:44)
Well, thank you for that, and thank you for your engagement in the bipartisan dialogue. As you know, it’s a goal of the administration and the president to get bipartisan support here. And as you pointed out, the EPW committee did something I think a very noteworthy in terms of being able to report out their bill unanimously in the last year. And while I think certainly the scale and in some ways the scope of this plan is different, I think many of the principles that were present in that legislation are very much aligned with what we’re talking about here. And while there are any number of mechanics that could get us from here to where we need to go, I certainly welcome a chance to continue speaking in that spirit.
Pete Buttigieg: (01:49:27)
I do want to just quickly delineate between a regular surface transportation bill and what we’re seeking to do here in the Jobs Plan in terms of once in a lifetime investment. And, of course, those might be contemplated together or separately, but just want to stress that what we’re envisioning here is over and above what we know needs to happen on a more regular timeline in American infrastructure spending.
John Hoeven: (01:49:54)
Right. And there’s been a number of senators on both sides now that has talked about maybe more than one bill and having something at least in the infrastructure package that’s more targeted towards traditional infrastructure. All of that could include other things like broadband, for example, which hasn’t traditionally been considered infrastructure but is and is very important, and I think there’d be a bipartisan support for including that and are other things as well. So again, it’s about engaging in a process to see if that’s a doable proposition. Sounds like something you’d be open.
Pete Buttigieg: (01:50:32)
I would certainly want to talk about how we can gain the most bipartisan support.
John Hoeven: (01:50:37)
And we talked about a number of different pay fors. One of the things I brought up is the Move America Program, which is legislation that I’ve co-sponsored with Senator Wyden. Essentially, that would provide $226 billion in tax exempt bonds or a tax credit to the states that they could utilize, and we talked about public private partnerships and leverage. We talked about other things as well. For example, the traditional highway fund, but also electrical vehicles paying and those kinds of things. Give me your thoughts on something like Move America, where we talk about actually leveraging the federal investment with not only the states but the private sector through things like Move America, which could help us pay for this infrastructure package.
Pete Buttigieg: (01:51:32)
Well, the American Jobs Plan, as you know, is a comprehensive vision that is fully paid for through adjustments to our corporate tax structure. But with regard to how transportation infrastructure is funded generally or in regular order, there’s certainly a lot of interest in making sure that we have sustainable funding patterns, and I think that the private activity bonds program that we have in the department is an example of how those private dollars can and have been mobilized to benefit public policy purposes. I’d certainly be interested in talking about other ways, provided, of course, that it’s consistent with our public policy goals that we can put those private dollars to work.
John Hoeven: (01:52:11)
Thank you. Administrator Regan, one of the things we’re working on, and I know it’s of great interest to you is cracking the code on carbon capture and underground storage in our state of North Dakota. We’re very aggressive on that. We’ve got so many things in place. One, I want to ask you to come out and see what we’re doing, but specifically the question I want to put in front of you is 45Q, the tax credit that we’ve put in place, can really help get that done and commercialize this process, particularly if we enhance it as we’re working to do. Actually, there’s support from the administration to do that in some of its legislation. I just wanted to ask you about your support for enhancements to 45Q in order to commercialize and really do CCUS, like you say, on a commercial scale.
Michael Regan: (01:52:55)
Thank you for that, Senator, and there’s no question you all are first movers in leading the path. I think that what is proposed in American Jobs Plan and what you guys are already doing and demonstrating, we’re all rowing in the same direction. I see a great compliment there and look forward to continuing to support that directionally.
John Hoeven: (01:53:09)
And you’d be willing to come see what we’re doing?
Michael Regan: (01:53:11)
John Hoeven: (01:53:12)
Thank you very much. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Leahy: (01:53:14)
Thank you. And Senator Schatz.
Brian Schatz: (01:53:18)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, thank you to the great cabinet secretaries here for your excellent presentations. Let me start with infrastructure resiliency. I was really pleased to see the proposal for $50 billion into resiliency activities, and I’ll be following up with hearings in my subcommittee next month. And I realize the proposal includes multi-agency responses from DoT, HUD, FEMA and other agencies. So starting with Secretary Fudge and then going over to Secretary Buttigieg, what are you going to do with the money and how are you going to coordinate agencies? Secretary Fudge?
Marcia Fudge: (01:53:55)
Let me just say thank you. But, of course, Department of Transportation and HUD work together on many issues. This will be another one of those issues. Resiliency is so very important. We have spent so many tens of billions of dollars addressing some of the occurrences over the past 10 years. I know it’s been more than $80 billion we spent, so we need to be prepared to present resilient communities so that we are prepared going forward, and we’re going to be working together. The good thing about this team is it is a team, and we are all going to be working together to make sure that we get a product that we know is going to be acceptable to you and to the other members of the Senate.
Brian Schatz: (01:54:38)
Pete Buttigieg: (01:54:39)
Well, first of all, I welcome your call to think about housing and transportation side-by-side, and as Secretary Fudge indicated, that’s already how we’re working. A mayor does not deal with transportation one day and then housing the next, and a family doesn’t pay the rent one month and then their commuting costs the next. All of these things are tightly integrated, and we’re going to make sure whether it’s regard to affordability, resiliency, climate readiness, or other considerations that we’re working hand in hand.
Brian Schatz: (01:55:07)
So we’ll help you to flesh all of this out and to clarify the inter-agency coordination piece. I’ll just add that for those of us who are concerned about the total price tag, $50 billion, the city of Houston alone has requested $60 billion to just the Subcommittee on Transportation and HUD. The city of Honolulu has about $19 billion worth of need, so $50 billion sounds like a lot until you start talking to Louisiana and Texas and Honolulu and California and all the other places across our country that need these investments in resiliency. Secretary Fudge, just very quickly, we’ve talked about how exclusionary zoning limits affordable housing, and the president’s proposal is really pretty aggressive and pretty innovative. Can you just tell me more about that?
Marcia Fudge: (01:55:59)
Certainly, Senator. We have discussed the fact that we cannot build our way out of this problem. We don’t have the resources to do it. We need help. We need for communities to assist us in providing the kind of access to opportunity neighborhoods and to land use. We need to have a conversation about how we can get away from “not in my backyard,” because until we do, we’re never going to be able to provide the kind of housing and the location of housing that we should.
Brian Schatz: (01:56:33)
Thank you very much. Secretary Buttigieg, I’m glad to see the $20 billion that’s allocated for road safety and Safe Streets for All. You’re probably aware that a lot of state departments of transportation say a lot of good things about Safe Streets for All and complete streets, but where the literally the rubber hits the road, they spend all their money on highways anyway. And so I’m wondering whether we can work together to ensure that, to the extent that we’re going to appropriate this money towards this specific public policy, that either there are strings attached at state DoT levels, or that we just give the money to the local governments, who frankly have a sort of better connection to the question of streets and sidewalks and bike lanes. So your comments, Mayor.
Pete Buttigieg: (01:57:20)
Well, I certainly agree that often it’s the local communities that have the most clear definition of what safety looks like to them, and what we’re finding is that a different state departments have been taking different approaches. But we want to encourage an approach that really recognizes the many functions of roads in our lives. I think there is that old mentality that the only reason to road exists is to blast vehicles through as quickly as possible and nothing else matters, and what we’ve found is that roads are for vehicles, they’re for pedestrians, they’re for bicycles and wheelchairs, and they’re for businesses too, and making sure that that happens safely has to be a top policy priority.
Brian Schatz: (01:57:59)
Final question for both you and for Administrator Regan. Where are you with rulemaking on cafe standards?
Pete Buttigieg: (01:58:07)
So President’s executive order called on us to review both the so-called Safe One and Safe Two rule. Working through Safe One now, expecting a notice to be put out later on in the spring, and then Safe Two afterwards.
Brian Schatz: (01:58:20)
Michael Regan: (01:58:21)
And we are, based on the president’s direction, looking at a regulating tailpipe emissions proposal, notice of proposed rulemaking this July with a more aggressive and more comprehensive proposal to follow.
Brian Schatz: (01:58:34)
Chairman Leahy: (01:58:35)
Thank you. Senator Kennedy?
John Kennedy: (01:58:41)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Administrator, good morning.
Michael Regan: (01:58:46)
John Kennedy: (01:58:47)
With respect to the Green New Deal climate change portion of the president’s infrastructure bill, how much is it going to lower world temperatures?
Michael Regan: (01:59:01)
Well, I think there is a focus on the American Jobs Plan and the president’s climate goals.
John Kennedy: (01:59:09)
Yes, sir, but how much is it going to lower world temperatures? That’s the purpose of it, right?
Michael Regan: (01:59:14)
I think when we look at the climate summit and the target that the president will announce along with the rest of the world, we’ll see comprehensively what collectively all of the world has to do.
John Kennedy: (01:59:24)
Have you done any modeling? I’m just trying to understand. You’re asking us to appropriate $ 2.3 trillion and to tax corporations $1.7 trillion, at least 50% of which will fall on the backs of workers, because when you tax something, you get less of it, and a big purpose of the infrastructure bill is to lower world temperatures. I mean, that’s what global warming climate change is. So my question is simple. What does your modeling show? How much will this lower world temperatures?
Michael Regan: (02:00:02)
I think the science shows that we collectively have to pursue a target to lower the climate-
John Kennedy: (02:00:10)
I understand, but what I’m trying … I’m sorry to interrupt, but I understand the target. The target is one degree centigrade. I get that part. How much will this bill lower world temperature?
Michael Regan: (02:00:28)
I think the answer to that is dependent upon in concert with how much this bill plus other actions outside of the bill look at in concert with reducing those targets, while creating jobs.
John Kennedy: (02:00:41)
Have you done any modeling?
Michael Regan: (02:00:43)
Yes. We’ve done modeling-
John Kennedy: (02:00:44)
What do your models show in terms of how much this bill will lower world temperatures or slow the progression of CO2 emissions?
Michael Regan: (02:00:54)
I don’t think the modeling speaks specifically to what this bill in isolation will do. I think the modeling shows the targets that we have to look forward to, and so in addition to this bill, for instance, there are statutory authorities and other powers [crosstalk 02:01:09].
John Kennedy: (02:01:09)
Why are we doing this if we don’t understand, haven’t done modeling to show how much it’s going to lower world temperature or lower the progression of CO2 emissions and methane?
Michael Regan: (02:01:26)
I think, Senator, we’re doing this because the Jobs Plan proves that we’re doing more than just focusing on climate, that we’re positioning ourselves to be global leaders on technology and [crosstalk 02:01:38] as well.
John Kennedy: (02:01:37)
I get all that, Administrator. I’m not trying to just pick on you, but this is what a Deputy Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing said last week of China on April 16th. “Some countries are asking China to do more on climate change. I’m afraid this is not realistic.” So China produces about a third of the world’s, really about 28% to be fair, of the world’s CO2. Okay? They’re not going to participate, and we’re going to spend $2.3 trillion. I’m out of it is climate change. Surely, you can give us an estimate of how much it’s going to slow the progression of CO2 and how much it’s going to lower world temperature.
Michael Regan: (02:02:25)
Well, I’m not quite sure I’d take the statement at face value from the Chinese representative.
John Kennedy: (02:02:29)
Well, maybe he’s a liar, but let’s put that aside.
Michael Regan: (02:02:32)
China’s investing a lot of money in renewable energy and battery storage and being globally competitive in the very areas that this jobs bill highlights.
John Kennedy: (02:02:42)
I understand. You don’t have a figure, do you, Mr. Administrator?
Michael Regan: (02:02:45)
A figure of?
John Kennedy: (02:02:46)
How much this going to lower world temperature or reduce the progression of CO2 in the United States?
Michael Regan: (02:02:52)
I don’t have a figure in front of me that justifies-
John Kennedy: (02:02:54)
You don’t have it then.
Michael Regan: (02:02:55)
… how much, in isolation, this bill lowers the world temperature based on just US participation.
John Kennedy: (02:03:02)
Right. So we’re just going to spend $3.3 trillion and find out on a wing and a prayer?
Michael Regan: (02:03:09)
I think the American Jobs Plan looks at more than just a prayer and a whim. I think it looks at some really good metrics that shows that we can create millions of jobs.
John Kennedy: (02:03:20)
Right. Excuse me for interrupting, but I’m about to run out of time. Let me ask … Let me ask my former colleague, the state treasurer, our new commerce secretary. To build credibility with the Congress, the taxpayers, and his own credibility, as a first step to paying for this $2.3 trillion bill, why wouldn’t President Biden turned to the Congress and say, “I want you to take a look at the discretionary spending in your budget and scrub it.”
Gina Raimondo: (02:03:59)
I don’t think it’s an either/or. The president is calling for a historic investment in infrastructure. As you say, $2 trillion. He believes that that’s what’s necessary and that’s-
John Kennedy: (02:04:10)
What budget reductions is he recommending?
Gina Raimondo: (02:04:14)
We’re all going through our budgets every day and looking for ways that we can be more efficient, but the truth of it is we need an investment.
John Kennedy: (02:04:23)
Much money do you think you’re going to reduce the budget?
Gina Raimondo: (02:04:27)
Say it again.
John Kennedy: (02:04:31)
How much money do you think you’re going to reduce your budget?
Gina Raimondo: (02:04:37)
I don’t have a great answer to that at the moment, but I can promise you it’s not enough that … We’re not going to save our way out of decades of underinvestment in R%D and in infrastructure. Yes, we need to run an efficient, effective government. The president’s clear with us about that. We also need to invest to grow and to compete and to regain our competitive advantage.
John Kennedy: (02:05:02)
Right. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Leahy: (02:05:07)
I’ve had a number of senators go way over their time, including the last one. And I’ve tried … These are important enough questions, I want to make sure that both Republicans and Democrats are heard, but I’ve been told, and I know there are a number of Saturdays in both parties who want to get to caucuses, so we’re going to be a little bit tougher on the timing.
John Kennedy: (02:05:30)
I’m glad you didn’t start before me, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate that.
Chairman Leahy: (02:05:36)
I understand Senator Merkley is next. Oh, he’s right here. I’m sorry. Jeff, I apologize.
Jeff Merkley: (02:05:47)
No, all good, Mr. Chairman, and I’m just sorry, you made that announcement now instead of a few minutes later. I’ll try to cover ground very quickly. I want to first talk about our forest infrastructure, which you may not immediately think have anything to do with environment or commerce, but I want to convince you it does, and I want to convince you to work with the Interior Secretary and Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service, because the fires we’re having out West produce a huge amount of carbon dioxide into the air, as well as a major impact on commerce in the state, including not just the fires themselves, but also the smoke. And I had the experience last September of driving 600 miles and never being out of the smoke, and it’s an extraordinary sense of how widespread and fierce those fires were, burning small communities to the ground, incinerating them. It was something to behold, and unless we rework our second growth forests, unless we manage them differently and do thinning and prescribed burns and mowing, they will continue to burn in this fashion.
Jeff Merkley: (02:07:05)
So let me start with you, Administrator Regan. Do recognize the challenge that forest fires represent in terms of carbon dioxide, global warming, and can you help work with Interior to make it an issue that we address?
Michael Regan: (02:07:21)
Absolutely. We recognized the impact to not only climate, but we also recognize the impact to air quality and public health.
Jeff Merkley: (02:07:28)
Thank you very much. And Secretary Raimondo the impact on our wine industry and our venues and so much else that affects commerce. Significant issue. Can I get your commitment to work with Interior on this issue?
Gina Raimondo: (02:07:41)
Jeff Merkley: (02:07:43)
Thank you so much. I want to turn to the housing issue, Secretary fudge, and I have a deep interest in this, going back to the days that I was a director of Portland Habitat for Humanity and then developed affordable housing, and there are three priorities that many of us are advocating for. One is that choice vouchers be available to everyone who qualifies, that we have a $70 billion investment in repairs to public housing, and third, a $45 billion a year to the housing trust fund.
Jeff Merkley: (02:08:17)
And I want to focus on this third part because a housing trust fund addresses the needs of the most vulnerable in our society, because 75% of the funds would have to go towards support for families that are at or below 30% of area median income. And all of the funds would have to go to families they’re at are at 50% or less of area median income, whereas when I was developing affordable housing, it was for 80% of median income, if you will. We just see the homeless epidemic just … You can come visit Portland. I invite you all to do so and other cities in my state, and it’s a graphic display of the challenge we face. So in terms, Madam Secretary, of the housing trust fund, is supporting a regular annual investment in the housing trust fund on the order of $45 billion a possibility?
Marcia Fudge: (02:09:17)
I am so happy to say that two out of the three are already in this Jobs Plan, and the third one is $40 billion as opposed to $70, but I think that we are very much on track, and the president and his team had put together what I think is an outstanding proposal. And it is $45 billion.
Jeff Merkley: (02:09:34)
That’s just terrific. I know we need to fight to maintain that as we go through the process. And finally, with my last minute, just want to turn to water infrastructure, and I’m glad to see the addressing lead pipes and the PFAS, and WIFIA, a program I worked to create here in the Senate, a Water Infrastructure Finance Innovation Act. But I want to address now what I hear from my small towns in Oregon and from my tribes including the Warm Springs tribe, which is that their communities are too small to support the investments in clean water and wastewater treatment required for commerce and expansion, required to repair old systems, required to meet new standards, and they are just perplexed on how they can get there. And so what I want to know on their behalf, can the Warm Springs tribe, can our small towns and cities count on significant grant funds to be able to basically rebuild their decrepit, clean water supply and wastewater treatment? So I’m turning to Administrator Regan in this regard.
Michael Regan: (02:10:42)
Yes. They can anticipate grant funding and loans as well as more technical support from the agency to help them put the best applications for it so that we can deploy those assets.
Jeff Merkley: (02:10:54)
All right. technical support is important, and I have a provision that is, I think, included in the general work we’re doing right now, which is a circuit writer plan to provide really experts to assist these small towns, be cause they look at the complexity of these systems. So that’s great, but they keep telling me the loans are too much. They won’t be able to repay them. They can’t sell them politically. They need grant help to help build these systems when you’re talking towns of under 10,000. It’s just a huge per person, almost an impossible burden.
Michael Regan: (02:11:27)
Yes. Some will qualify for loans. Some will qualify for grants. Some can qualify for both, and we’ll take a look. I’d love to spend some time-
Jeff Merkley: (02:11:34)
I’m going to be advocating for a whole list of communities that I have with me now, but I’ll be following up with you. Thank you very much.
Michael Regan: (02:11:42)
Chairman Leahy: (02:11:46)
Thank you. And I see Senator Brown is here. Go ahead, Senator.
Sherrod Brown: (02:11:51)
Thank you. Mr. Chairman, infrastructure. I can’t think of anything that should have more bipartisan support coming from a state of Indiana where we actually had the political well in 2017 to not only talk about infrastructure, got I think 47 to 48 out of 50 stakeholders, one of them myself at the time as a owner of a trucking and distribution company that thought it made sense if we were going to spend money and then we could keep it devoted to infrastructure, as most of us understand, roads and bridges, maybe waterways, air, rail, then it makes sense to do so.
Sherrod Brown: (02:12:39)
I think a question came up earlier, and I was just off a conversation a moment ago with the concrete folks across the country. They’re obviously interested in infrastructure, and they were more concerned actually what we’re going to do on an annual ongoing basis with the transportation bill. I think earlier the question was asked is that going to be addressed in this larger bill. Secretary Buttigieg, I think the answer was probably not. I just want to know the reason why we’re not tackling that for that dependability and reliability that most are looking for not only with one big flurry of spending.
Pete Buttigieg: (02:13:23)
Well, Thank you, Senator, for this chance to explain. So we view both of these things moving in parallel. What I’m trying to convey is that the American Jobs Plan, which is conceived as a once in a generation, perhaps once in a lifetime investment in the things that we need, both in terms of things like transportation infrastructure, care infrastructure, and housing infrastructure to succeed and the compete in the future need to be done on a one-time basis. But, of course, we also have the ongoing needs for transportation that are contemplated in the surface bills, and so the Jobs Plan was crafted in such a way that these investments make sense in a world where the highway or surface bills as we know them, whether they’re reauthorized as we hope or extended or something else, that those could fit together.
Sherrod Brown: (02:14:16)
Thank you. Also vividly remember in 2017 how 70% of Hoosiers wanted better roads and bridges, and in an enterprising state like ours, 70% didn’t want their taxes to go up. So we tackled that as well and did sell it mostly to the business community, which is less regressive when diesel taxes go up. We haven’t touched fuel taxes since ’93. To me, that’s a lack of political will. Most stakeholders are willing to pay more, especially to where it wouldn’t be as regressive on the diesel side of it. But what about public/private partnerships? What about something we did uniquely of giving more federal dollars to states that are willing to pay more? I’d like any witness to jump in on those two. The private sector, we’ve got clean balance sheets. There’s a lot of potential there. Government doesn’t have to do it all of it itself through the federal level, so talk about your comfort zone with public/private partnerships and other creative ways of paying for it, given the kind of ugly looking balance sheet we’ve got currently.
Pete Buttigieg: (02:15:32)
I’ll defer to my colleagues for their views. I would simply reiterate that we certainly see that as part of the bigger picture on transportation.
Michael Regan: (02:15:40)
We definitely see that as part of the solution with the $111 billion in the American Jobs Plan for water infrastructure. We recognize that the government can’t do it alone. There are $743 billion worth of needs in this country, so it will take some creativity, entrepreneurship, and public/private partnerships to close that gap.
Gina Raimondo: (02:15:59)
I agree, and earlier we spoke about the semiconductor fund.
Gina Raimondo: (02:16:03)
I agree. And earlier, we spoke about the semiconductor fund, which I think is vital. There’s no way 50 billion is enough. We hope to turn the 50 billion into three or four times that, leveraging public-private partnerships and public and private investment.
Marcia Fudge: (02:16:16)
And we’re actually already doing it with the Rental Assistance Demonstration project, so it’s something that we’re familiar with.
Sherrod Brown: (02:16:23)
Again, a trickier subject: would you be willing to reward enterprising states that got the capital capacity to get more federal dollars if they’d put a higher percentage of their own skin in the game?
Gina Raimondo: (02:16:39)
Sherrod Brown: (02:16:39)
Go ahead, anyone.
Gina Raimondo: (02:16:40)
[crosstalk 02:16:40] go first. I think… look, the president’s been very clear, let’s get bipartisan support, and let’s look for areas of compromise. I will say, as a former governor until about a month ago, I think that’s very interesting. And here at Commerce, we’ll be investing the EDA funds, and we are thinking of doing, as has been done in the past, a competition. We certainly want states to put skin in the game. So, I think it’s something worth discussion.
Chairman Leahy: (02:17:13)
Sherrod Brown: (02:17:13)
Chairman Leahy: (02:17:14)
I think the senator raises a very interesting question. Fortunately, if we’re going to treat the different states differently, we’re going to have to have legislation in all likelihood to do that, but that’s something we should consider. I mean, the Senate ought to be spending some time legislating.
Chairman Leahy: (02:17:32)
Now, we have Senator Baldwin who is joining us remotely.
Tammy Baldwin: (02:17:40)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Leahy: (02:17:41)
There she is.
Tammy Baldwin: (02:17:46)
Thank you to our witnesses. I am really pleased that the American Jobs Plan intends to create good jobs by requiring that materials used in the construction of infrastructure are made in America. I recently introduced bipartisan legislation, with my Republican colleague who was just speaking, the Made in America Act, to require that all federal programs that fund or finance infrastructure projects use materials manufactured in the U.S.
Tammy Baldwin: (02:18:19)
The bill touches programs that each one of you is charged with enforcing, but I’d like to ask each witness if you would support applying these Buy America provisions to programs administered by your agency. Please answer yes or no, if you can.
Tammy Baldwin: (02:18:39)
Secretary Fudge, would you support adding Buy America provisions to the materials used in construction funded or financed by the Public Housing Capital Fund, and the Community Development Block Grant?
Marcia Fudge: (02:18:50)
Tammy Baldwin: (02:18:52)
Administrator Regan, would you support adding Buy America provisions to materials used in construction funded or financed by the Water Infrastructure Financing Innovation Act, the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, and the Clean Water State Revolving Fund?
Michael Regan: (02:19:09)
Tammy Baldwin: (02:19:11)
Secretary Buttigieg, would you support adding Buy America provisions to the materials used in construction funded or financed by the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Transit Administration, the Federal Railroad Administration, and the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act?
Pete Buttigieg: (02:19:30)
Tammy Baldwin: (02:19:31)
And lastly, Secretary Raimondo, my legislation requires the Commerce Secretary to set uniform standards that maximize the jobs created in the U.S. by this requirement. Do you agree that more manufacturing processes occurring in the U.S. translates into more American jobs?
Gina Raimondo: (02:19:53)
Tammy Baldwin: (02:19:55)
Oh, thank you, all. Secretary Buttigieg and Raimondo, I am pleased that the American Jobs Plan will make our infrastructure more resilient to extreme weather and the effects of climate change by investing $50 billion to improve infrastructure resilience, and ensure that we build back better. After years of touring flood damage across the state of Wisconsin, this is a high priority for me.
Tammy Baldwin: (02:20:24)
This week, I will be re-introducing my bipartisan Rebuilding Stronger Infrastructure Act to update the emergency relief program at the Department of Transportation. I’m also re-introducing my bipartisan Built to Last Act to ensure that the Department of Commerce is supporting building codes that make the best use of our climate data and our best climate data.
Tammy Baldwin: (02:20:51)
I’d like to ask each of you to talk about why this is so critical to place resiliency at the center of this once-in-a-generation infrastructure investment. And I’ll start with Secretary Buttigieg.
Pete Buttigieg: (02:21:04)
Well, thank you. We view it as extremely important to make sure as we’re making especially these potentially once-in-a-lifetime or once-in-a-generation investments that they be done with resilience in mind. Of course, we’re already incorporating that into our discretionary work, as much as the existing statute can allow for, but believe it needs to be even more central on the road ahead, and it’s why we’re talking not only about fix it first, but fix it right.
Tammy Baldwin: (02:21:30)
Tammy Baldwin: (02:21:31)
Secretary Raimondo [crosstalk 02:21:32].
Gina Raimondo: (02:21:32)
Yes. Thank you. Yes. Thank you.
Tammy Baldwin: (02:21:33)
Gina Raimondo: (02:21:36)
Thank you for the question. As we’ve discussed, resiliency is vital, and Commerce can play a very important role with NIST and NOAA, and collecting the technical data necessary to define resilience and ensure that that is incorporated into all the work that we do. So, it will be exciting to work with you on the legislation and to implement it.
Tammy Baldwin: (02:22:05)
Tammy Baldwin: (02:22:06)
And Mr. Chairman, I yield back.
Chairman Leahy: (02:22:12)
Thank you. Thank you very much, Senator.
Chairman Leahy: (02:22:14)
And next, we have a Senator Chris Murphy.
Chris Murphy: (02:22:20)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, Vice-Chairman. Thank you all for enduring a long hearing, but an important one.
Chris Murphy: (02:22:28)
Secretary Buttigieg, the distance between Beijing and Shanghai is about twice as long as the distance between Boston and Washington. And so, suffice it to say, it would be embarrassing if the amount of time it took to travel between our nation’s capital and the city of Boston was the same as it takes to travel between those two major Asian capitals. In fact, it’s worse than that. It takes about four and a half hours to get from Beijing to Shanghai via train. It takes about seven hours today to get from Boston to Washington.
Chris Murphy: (02:23:05)
To make things even worse, we’re not getting faster; we’re getting slower. This morning, I checked a timetable from Bridgeport to New York City. Right now, it’s about 89 minutes on average. You can get a train a couple minutes faster, if it doesn’t make as many stops. In 1963, it was 74 minutes. We’re getting slower, not faster. And so, I’m grateful for the focus in this plan on Amtrak generally, in Northeast rail.
Chris Murphy: (02:23:37)
I know Senator Coons asked some questions about this as well, but we’ve got this tremendous backlog of state of good repair projects. I want to just make sure that our goal here is not just to fix what’s broken, but to actually improve performance, improve experience. Is that the underlying goal of our project here with Amtrak funding, transit funding, and specifically Northeast rail funding?
Pete Buttigieg: (02:24:05)
Yes, we’re not going to all this trouble just in hopes of remaining 13th in infrastructure globally. This is about looking after what we have, and making sure we get better.
Chris Murphy: (02:24:14)
And so, then let me ask you this question. How do we make sure that in a rail system that has a fairly complicated existing financing structure, you’ve got commuter rail systems, you’ve got state-financed portions of the rail, Amtrak’s putting in money, and the federal government’s putting in money, how do we make sure that this federal investment doesn’t become an excuse for states or for commuter rail to not put in their own skin? How do we make sure that we leverage a substantial investment in rail, in particular Northeast rail, in a way that provokes states to do more, not do less?
Pete Buttigieg: (02:24:52)
Thank you. It’s a welcome reminder of the challenge of making sure that every player is doing their part. And, to that regard, I would point not only to the funds in the American Job Plan, but also in our discretionary budget request this year, calling for PRIME. I can’t remember what it stands for, other than that the “P” and the “R” are for “passenger rail”, but to reward and encourage those local and other bodies that are stepping up.
Chris Murphy: (02:25:16)
And, Mr. Chairman, I would just recommend to this committee and to others that are working on this that we take some time to make sure that we are offering a proposal here that prompts other entities to put increased resources into the pool as well because even if you take the $80 billion for Amtrak and assume that half of it goes to the Northeast rail corridor, that just covers state of good repair. That literally just fixes the parts that are broke. That repairs the bridge in Connecticut that was built during the Grover Cleveland administration, but it doesn’t necessarily get you even back to 1963 travel times. So, I think that’s a really worthy project for us to undertake. Secretary Raimondo, staying on this topic, you’ve got obviously unique expertise to leverage here because you were governor of a state on the Northeast rail corridor. So, two questions for you. One, what ideas, if any, do you have about how to leverage states to put skin in the game here and to not just replace their spending with federal spending? And two, from a commerce standpoint, how important is it, as we’re marketing America, to be able to say that we are attacking this issue of travel times between major eastern seaboard capitals that are, again, expanding rather than decreasing?
Gina Raimondo: (02:26:42)
Thank you for your question. Nice to see you, neighbor from Connecticut.
Chris Murphy: (02:26:46)
Good to see you.
Gina Raimondo: (02:26:47)
It’s vitally important. I spent an awful lot of time as governor trying to convince companies to locate in or expand in Rhode Island. And inevitably, the number-one question was, “How’s the airport?” and, “Tell me about the infrastructure,” which is… and trains are a key part of that. So, in any event, I would just say it is absolutely vitally important. Businesses want to be, and people want to live, in places with first-class infrastructure. And that’s broadly defined, broadband, water, bike paths, rail, roads, airports, et cetera.
Gina Raimondo: (02:27:27)
I will say that in the Rescue Package, which was fantastic, and thank you for taking action, states do have money available on account of that. And I think we need to be innovative in how we encourage them to make some of that money and other money available to put against federal investments. Again, if we could take a dollar and turn it into two or three, that maximizes the investment.
Chris Murphy: (02:27:56)
Chris Murphy: (02:27:56)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Leahy: (02:27:57)
Thank you very much.
Chairman Leahy: (02:27:59)
And Senator Manchin.
Joe Manchin: (02:28:02)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank all of you. Appreciate you very much in your commitment to public service. I appreciate everyone of you all being here today, but I truly do find it a little bit odd that Secretary Granholm is not with us, given the Department of Energy will likely have a pre large role-
Chairman Leahy: (02:28:20)
I would note for the senator, we have invited the ones we’ve had time for. We’ve already gone an hour over with those. And Secretary Granholm is going to be scheduled to be before the hearing, as will the other members of the Cabinet.
Joe Manchin: (02:28:36)
That’s great because in the… American Jobs calls for $180 billion of investment in research and development. So, we’ll get to her when she does come here. So, thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, for that. The Department of Energy is very instrumental and very intricate to this whole process, and we have to coordinate it.
Joe Manchin: (02:28:56)
Secondary Raimondo, I’ve long said that in the 1930s, my grandparents didn’t have electricity. Most rural Americans didn’t, rural West Virginians. And FDR gets elected, and before you have… you have rural electrification. They were able to basically take a line up every hollow and every little nook and cranny in America to make sure everyone was connected for the convenience, and I guess for the 20th-century infrastructure that was needed. I find it really, really challenging now in the 21st-century infrastructure of internet broadband connectivity. It’s about the same as electricity was back in the 1930s. And still yet, we haven’t been able to unlock this for some reason.
Joe Manchin: (02:29:39)
And I’ve said, if you look at the model that was put together in the 20th century, early 20th century, using co-ops to go up in areas where you could not force the large public companies to go because they would lose money. There’s not enough activity. The co-ops weren’t profit-driven or profit… why can’t we use that same model that was used to basically get up in all these very difficult, challenging areas? Because if Appalachia’s left behind, then you will have more poverty than you’ve ever seen before.
Gina Raimondo: (02:30:14)
Yeah. We’re not going to let that happen. The president is very clear. We want this Jobs Plan, and the 100 billion dollars called for is to ensure that 100% of Americans, including those in Appalachia, have high-speed, affordable broadband. And the Jobs Plan is very clear that we’re going to provide the grants and the money to the entities in the best position to provide the service, including non-profits, co-ops, and municipal entities, just like you’ve said. There’s no one-size-fits-all, and so we will consult with the community. And I promise you we will make sure that nobody’s left behind
Joe Manchin: (02:30:56)
Secretary Buttigieg, Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty in 1964. 1964. Appalachia was isolated from much of the country. And if it wasn’t for 1960 election, where John Kennedy campaigned in West Virginia and made that basically his mantra to bring in interstates, we weren’t going to get interstates in Appalachia. We wouldn’t had had anything. And he made that happen.
Joe Manchin: (02:31:19)
But I will say this. The system is 90% complete, which is the Appalachian Development Highway System. That was to build 3,090 miles of roads. It’s 90% complete. This last 284 miles is the toughest of all, and it’s not supposed to be done until 2040. And we’ve got parts that are isolated and getting further behind because of the transition from the coal communities. So, I’m hoping that he made… President made it very clear, President Biden, that he wants to make sure that we leave nobody behind. Those areas that we’d like to bring to your attention need to be accelerated. If not, it will not get done for the next 20 years. So, I don’t know if you’ve been brought up to speed on ARC or Appalachian highway corridors and all that.
Pete Buttigieg: (02:32:02)
I appreciate you raising that. Have had one great interaction with the ARC, and we’ll certainly take that back, and learn more about the progress of that effort.
Joe Manchin: (02:32:11)
My final’s to all of you, whoever wants to answer it. [inaudible 02:32:14] proven track record, all of you. All of you got confirmed with really good bipartisan vote, which is a tremendous feat in today’s toxic atmosphere. So, I want to congratulate each and every one of you. That was tremendous.
Joe Manchin: (02:32:29)
So, yesterday, on the floor of the Senate, Leader Chuck Schumer, majority leader said, “We’re seeing that when the Senate is given the opportunity to work, the Senate can work.” That’s something I’m very much agree with, as you know. So, we have to end this on a positive note. What piece of your portion of this infrastructure plan do you believe seems to have the most bipartisan support? And we’ll just start and go right down the line. Well, let’s start over here. Marcia, you start.
Marcia Fudge: (02:32:57)
I think the part of the housing piece that has the most bipartisan support is to bring up to code existing properties. We have some 9,400 units that… most of them need updating. And to find a way to bridge the gap between the rising cost of housing and affordable housing.
Joe Manchin: (02:33:19)
Gina Raimondo: (02:33:20)
The $50 billion CHIPS Act investment into semiconductors.
Joe Manchin: (02:33:26)
And what you’re hearing is basically a good bipartisan?
Gina Raimondo: (02:33:28)
Joe Manchin: (02:33:29)
It has bipartisan support, you think?
Gina Raimondo: (02:33:30)
Joe Manchin: (02:33:31)
[crosstalk 02:33:31] all the people you’re talking to?
Gina Raimondo: (02:33:31)
Joe Manchin: (02:33:33)
Michael Regan: (02:33:34)
I believe the water infrastructure portion of the bill.
Joe Manchin: (02:33:37)
Michael Regan: (02:33:38)
Water infrastructure: wastewater, stormwater, lead pipes. Although we’re going to work for all of it to have bipartisan support.
Joe Manchin: (02:33:44)
Pete Buttigieg: (02:33:46)
Well, certainly, our surface transportation needs, I think are well-understood, but I also love being part of a package that’s popular in its individual pieces as well as in its totality.
Joe Manchin: (02:33:55)
Chairman Leahy: (02:33:55)
Thank you. All right. I thank the senator from West Virginia, who also has the experience of having dealt with these kinds of issues as governor as well.
Chairman Leahy: (02:34:08)
Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland.
Chris Van Hollen: (02:34:11)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. It’s great to see all of you here today to talk about the American Jobs Plan. We’ve been talking about modernizing our infrastructure around here for a long time, so I’m glad we’re finally moving forward to do it, and not just modernizing our 20th-century infrastructure and updating it for the 21st, but developing the 21st-century infrastructure, and building more jobs along with that. There’s a lot to cover. I just want to mention a couple things to each of you that I look forward to working with you on.
Chris Van Hollen: (02:34:42)
Broadband’s been mentioned. We need to build out 100% broadband. Before the pandemic, we were talking about closing the homework gap, kids who couldn’t access the internet for homework. Now, it’s a full-blown learning gap, and we need to connect everybody everywhere.
Chris Van Hollen: (02:34:57)
Secretary Fudge, on the affordable housing front, pleased to see the infrastructure piece here. I also saw in your budget, you called for another 200,000 affordable housing vouchers. Just want to point out that Senator Young and I have bipartisan legislation to establish 500,000 affordable housing vouchers to help families move to areas of greater opportunity, something that has a proven track record of success.
Chris Van Hollen: (02:35:25)
Administrative Reagan, the water and sewer’s important for clean drinking water, and, of course, protecting water bodies like the Chesapeake Bay. And it’s not in your jurisdiction, but I’ve been working for years to establish a clean energy accelerator to do public-private partnerships to unleash the power of a clean energy economy. Look forward to working with all of you on that. There’s $40 billion dollars in the American Jobs Plan for that. Senator Markey and I have a plan at a 100 billion, but we want to work in that direction to get it done.
Chris Van Hollen: (02:35:56)
Community development, Secretary Raimondo. We spoke during your confirmation process about legislation we’ve introduced to build on community development efforts, especially in Baltimore. As part of the American Rescue Plan, as you know, we had $3 billion for EDA. I see in this Jobs Plan, you identify EDA as a source of funds for additional infrastructure, and you want to lift the cap, the $3 million cap. All good. There’s not a number specified. I do think that’s a flexible funding source that I hope to work with you on to really boost that as part of the plan. Again, I don’t see any dollar figure associated with it, but I can tell you in places like Baltimore City, those funds can go a very long way. So, I look forward to working with you on that.
Chris Van Hollen: (02:36:48)
Secretary Buttigieg, transit. We’re seeing not just major systems like [Welmada 02:36:55], which is important to make sure the federal government keeps going by bringing federal employees to and from work. But the Maryland Legislature, just a few days ago, passed authorization for a regional transit system, connecting Prince George’s county to counties in southern Maryland, a hugely congested area. Those more regional transit projects have sort of been left behind and overlooked in the past. So, look forward to working with you on that, as we also repair our roads and bridges.
Chris Van Hollen: (02:37:27)
And finally, and Secretary Buttigieg, I just want you to expand on this. There are funds in here to take down some of the infrastructure put in places in years past that actually divided communities, and was really based on a legacy of segregation and racial discrimination. There’s a what we call a highway to nowhere in Baltimore City. In the process of beginning that highway, 900 homes were taken and demolished in an African-American neighborhood. The road was finally stopped because of opposition from East Baltimore, the whiter communities, but the damage had already been done in these African-American communities in West Baltimore. It’s a scar running through the city. So, just yesterday, Secretary, excuse me, Senator Carper and Cardin and I and many others introduced a bill. It’s part of your plan to make livable communities. Can you just elaborate on that? There are some that say, “Wow, you have an infrastructure bill, and you’re actually using some of those funds to take down infrastructure.” These are sort of things that were done in the past that are actually making it harder for communities to come together and succeed.
Pete Buttigieg: (02:38:46)
Yes. Thank you for the chance to speak to that, and first to acknowledge your leadership and that of Senator Carper and others in making sure that there is legislation and work around what it would take to deliver greater equity. Too often, our highway infrastructure and road infrastructure came in a very inequitable fashion, not just in terms of who was left out, but in terms of people finding their neighborhoods destroyed or divided by things like the placement of a roadway. And I should add, sometimes perhaps out of neglect because it was the path of least resistance. Sometimes it was even worse, being viewed deliberately as a means for clearing a “undesirable area” or enforcing a pattern of segregation between one side of a highway and another. And so, we do need to pay attention to how we can use resources to reconnect what has been divided, especially when those divisions happened through the use of federal dollars at a previous time.
Chris Van Hollen: (02:39:41)
Thank you. I appreciate that. Look forward to working with you, Mr. Secretary, and all of you on these issues. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Leahy: (02:39:47)
Chairman Leahy: (02:39:48)
And our last senator, not least, the newest member of the committee, and also I note the member who has spent the most time here today of either party, listening to what I think has been a very informative meeting, Senator Heinrich.
Martin Heinrich: (02:40:10)
It has been informative, Chairman, and I’m grateful that you didn’t start the clock on me early. So, I’ll try and get to as many questions as I can.
Martin Heinrich: (02:40:20)
First, I want to say something about sort of the debt conversation we heard from some of my colleagues earlier. One of the things I learned sitting on a city council in Albuquerque was that deferred maintenance is debt. And what I mean by that is if you have to go to the rating agencies and say, “Oh, you should give us a great bond rating because we’re going to stop spending money on our roads, stop spending money on our water infrastructure, stop spending money on our parks,” they will tell you that deferred maintenance is debt, and they will look very skeptically on that. And we’ve been deferring maintenance in this country for decades now. And we are underinvesting in infrastructure.
Martin Heinrich: (02:41:01)
I think the chairman said we’re putting about 2.3% of GDP into infrastructure. That’s not even competitive. The ranking member said it well. He said, “We have a lot of crumbling infrastructure in this country.” That is not something we should be proud of.
Martin Heinrich: (02:41:18)
So, our current commitment to infrastructure has more in common with Belarus at 2.1% than it does with China at 5.6%. And I think the reason why we’re having this hearing is because we all know that we need to change that.
Martin Heinrich: (02:41:33)
Secretary Raimondo, is broadband infrastructure?
Gina Raimondo: (02:41:38)
I believe it is. Yes.
Martin Heinrich: (02:41:39)
I don’t think there’s a single person I’ve met in New Mexico who questions that, and yet that is part of the conversation as we go into discussing this American Jobs Plan. It is the infrastructure highway… or the information highway. I mean, this is the infrastructure of our time. And I very much appreciate what you said about reaching out to tribal communities and to focusing on the unserved before we increase capacity in existing served areas.
Martin Heinrich: (02:42:08)
Administrator Regan, methane is an extremely potent greenhouse gas, as you know. It’s the primary constituent in natural gas. And oil and gas production is the largest emitter of fugitive methane in the United States. So, fixing methane leaks and capturing wasted emissions from oil and gas infrastructure is a big potential win-win for the economy, for the climate. How might the American Jobs Plan help stop methane emissions, while at the same time creating place-based, good-paying jobs?
Michael Regan: (02:42:44)
Well, it positions us to partner with organizations, like the American Petroleum Institute, and Edison Electric who are calling for methane regulations. I think we’ll use these resources to capitalize on the advanced technologies that we have at our fingertips right now to quantify methane emissions and significantly reduce those emissions, while looking at those technologies being available to our international partners all around the world.
Martin Heinrich: (02:43:12)
Yeah. I know my colleague from Louisiana said how important it is to model these things. Actually, the Energy Futures Initiative has modeled the impact that just regulating and capturing methane would produce to reducing global warming, and it is one of the most powerful things that we can do.
Martin Heinrich: (02:43:33)
In addition, Administrator, electrifying our homes by installing energy-efficient things like heat pumps, induction stoves is one way for each of us to take immediate and long-lasting action on the climate crisis. The added benefit of that is that indoor air pollution from combustion is a huge problem. Many people don’t realize that there are many homes in this country where if the indoor air quality were outdoors, it wouldn’t meet the Clean Air Act. At the same time, we can manufacture those things right here in the United States. So, talk to me about what in the American Jobs Plan, and with your agencies can help Americans electrify more of their homes while cleaning up indoor air quality, literally saving lives from things like asthma attacks, and creating local installation jobs.
Michael Regan: (02:44:25)
Well, we have a significant amount of experience with indoor air quality at EPA, as well as looking at more efficient appliances within our homes via our Energy Star Program. I think the American Jobs Plan sets up an excellent opportunity for the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Energy to quantify the ability to deploy technologies, reduce emissions, quantify those health benefits, while, just as you say, put lots of Americans to work.
Martin Heinrich: (02:44:53)
Finally, Secretary Buttigieg, I was really glad to see the American Jobs Plans’ proposals to build out the national network of charging infrastructure by 2030. This is a really important transition we’re in the midst of, but I want to make sure that there is adequate focus on rural states like New Mexico, where, in many cases, the map right now makes it very hard for my constituents in rural areas to utilize those kinds of advanced solutions.
Pete Buttigieg: (02:45:26)
Yes. We think this is especially important to consider, that it’s often in rural and more spread-out states where Americans would have the most to gain from the fuel savings associated with electric vehicles, but it doesn’t do you any good if you can’t get charged on those longer distances. And that’s why we believe that electric charging infrastructure is such an important part of this vision, and is absolutely being done with regard to those rural and less dense areas.
Martin Heinrich: (02:45:53)
Thank you for your patience, Mr. Chair.
Chairman Leahy: (02:45:57)
Not at all. The questions that have been asked have been excellent. And I want to thank everybody, certainly the senators of who came, but especially the witnesses, and the staff on both sides of the aisle who worked so hard to put together a meaningful hearing.
Chairman Leahy: (02:46:18)
I couldn’t help but think, and I’ll close with this, the American Society of Engineers have given our roads a grade of D; our bridges are graded at C; storm water and wastewater systems D and D-plus; drinking water is C-minus. Talking about our energy grids, our student populations have outgrown our schools.
Chairman Leahy: (02:46:48)
Obviously, we have to do something about broadband. The American Society of Civil Engineers says 65% of counties in America have connection speeds less than what they would call as broadband. 1 in 5 school-aged children lack high-speed internet connection. When I was growing up, you assumed you turn the light switch on the house, the lights would come on. Well, today, you assume you’d have an internet connection. So, we’ve got to build safer, stronger, sounder.
Chairman Leahy: (02:47:22)
We talked about the climate crisis. It’s real. And we have a part, as do all other countries. But if we don’t do our part, how are we going to go to other countries and tell them to get onboard and do their part?
Chairman Leahy: (02:47:38)
We know what’s happened to our electrical grids. We’ve got to invest in people, research, and development. And I think this Jobs Plan speaks to it.
Chairman Leahy: (02:47:48)
So, I’ll keep the hearing record open for a week. There are written questions to submit. I’d ask everybody do it by 5:00 PM next Tuesday, on April 27th. And I’ll come down there and personally thank you, but on the record, I want to thank the witnesses. I know this has gone long, but I hope you could tell by the questions there’s a great deal of interest in this. We stand adjourned.
Speaker 2: (02:48:18)
Thank you, Chair.