DeFazio pushes for infrastructure plan as next phase of relief

April 2, 2020

Mark Schremmer

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Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., pushed for an investment in the nation’s infrastructure as the next phase of COVID-19 relief during a conference call with Democratic leaders on Wednesday, April 1.

DeFazio, chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, joined House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Majority Whip James Clyburn, and Chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Frank Pallone to discuss the next steps for a long-term economic recovery package.

Earlier this year, DeFazio announced a five-year, $760 billion infrastructure proposal. On Wednesday, DeFazio said he supports building upon that framework to help the United States rebound from the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Rebuilding America

“This is rebuilding America and preparing us for the 21st Century in so many ways,” DeFazio said. “We want to put people first, workers first, and nothing does that more than the investments we’re talking about here.

“We have the strongest ‘Buy America’ requirements of any sector of the federal government, in transportation infrastructure. Way stronger than the Pentagon even, dealing with national defense. So, the multiplier effect is extraordinary.”

When originally released in January, the infrastructure plan included:

  • Bringing existing infrastructure into a state of good repair and enabling the completion of critical projects through long-term, sustainable funding.
  • Setting a path toward zero carbon pollution from the transportation sector, creating jobs, protecting natural resources, promoting environmental justice, and increasing resiliency to climate change.
  • Ensuring a transportation system that is green, affordable, reliable and efficient while providing access to jobs.
  • Providing safe, clean, and affordable water and wastewater services.
  • Prioritizing the safety of the traveling public.
  • Helping combat climate change by creating good-paying jobs in clean energy, investing in energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas pollution.
  • Expanding broadband internet access and adoption for unserved and underserved rural, suburban and urban communities.
  • Modernizing 911 public safety networks.
  • Creating family-wage jobs and other strong worker protections.
  • Supporting U.S. industries, including steel and manufacturing through strong Buy America protections.

The push for an infrastructure packages comes days after Congress passed the $2.2 trillion CARES Act to provide relief for Americans during the coronavirus national emergency.

“Make no mistake, this is an incredible economic blow to America,” DeFazio said. “What we have done has mitigated some of that damage. But we’re going to need a longer-term recovery package and we have to be more resilient in the future, which we can with this package.”

Big and bold

On Tuesday, March 31, President Donald Trump also touted infrastructure as a way to help the economy rebound.

A ‘thank you’ to truckers

DeFazio said the plan is focused on putting workers, including truck drivers, first.

“When I flew back to Oregon after D.C., and I drove down Interstate 5, I thought I was in the movie ‘Convoy,’” he said. “There was virtually nothing on the highway but trucks and me.

“These truck drivers are today’s American heroes. They are keeping our stores stocked, they are keeping things moving, and we have to have a better system for the future for trucking, for rail, for that and it also has to look toward the future in dealing with the next major threat.

OOIDA’s take

OOIDA lauded DeFazio’s efforts and said the Association will be active in helping shape an infrastructure bill that will address the needs of truck drivers.

“Truckers should feel very proud that Peter DeFazio, chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, specifically recognized them as heroes during a news conference on COVID-19 response and relief efforts,” said Collin Long, OOIDA’s director of government affairs.

“Chairman DeFazio has long been a champion of the men and women who make a living behind the wheel. Truckers feel their hard work is often ignored or overlooked by Congress, and many worry that when the dust settles on the current crisis all the accolades they’ve received throughout it won’t amount to substantial improvements in parking, detention time, compensation and other important issues. Chairman DeFazio has again proven he understands more must be done in Washington to support professional drivers. We look forward to working with him and his staff to make sure the needs of truckers are addressed in the next COVID-19 relief package.”

Mark Schremmer

Mark Schremmer, senior editor, joined Land Line in 2015. An award-winning journalist and former assistant news editor at The Topeka Capital-Journal, he brings fresh ideas, solid reporting skills, and more than two decades of journalism experience to our staff.