Shelby Questions Scope of Democrats' Massive "Infrastructure" Proposal

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) today delivered opening remarks during a full committee hearing on President Biden’s recent infrastructure proposal, “The American Jobs Plan.”  During the hearing, Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan, Department of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, and Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge testified before the committee regarding the proposed $2.3 trillion plan.


Vice Chairman Shelby’s remarks, as prepared, are as follows:


“I want to welcome our witnesses to the committee today.  And since this is our first full committee hearing under the new Democratic majority, I want to recognize and congratulate you on your new role, Mr. Chairman.


“I also want to commend you for calling today’s hearing.  I believe it is an important step toward reasserting the Appropriations Committee’s jurisdiction over federal spending.


“President Biden’s emergency COVID relief bill contained nearly half a trillion dollars in appropriations for discretionary accounts.  Despite this, the Appropriations 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.


“Doing this work at the Appropriations Committee is not just about protecting the committee’s jurisdiction; it’s about protecting American taxpayers.


“The Appropriations Committee has expertise other committees lack when it comes to oversight of funding.  This is especially important given the scale and 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, bipartisan support.


“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 depends on how broadly the term infrastructure is defined.


“For me, that is the 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, bridges, airports, transportation systems, water systems, and the like.


“The Administration’s proposal, on the other hand, is so broad and ambiguous that it seems there is little, if anything, they do not consider infrastructure.


“The American Jobs Plan proposes to be all things to all people.  It is largely an effort to check items off the long-standing liberal wish list under the guise of ‘infrastructure.’


“Non-germane items aside, I also have concerns about the overall approach in the President’s plan for more traditional types of infrastructure.


“The plan appears focused on making new investments in unproven programs, rather than expanding investments in proven ones.  It also suggests an approach that will grow government for the long term, instead of harnessing the power of private sector partnerships that are good for American business and taxpayers.


“Not to mention, it proposes paying for everything with a massive tax increase.


“In light of this proposed tax hike, it’s puzzling that the administration in its press release announcing the proposal claimed it will ‘position the United States to out-compete China.’


“That’s all the more curious considering the administration recently proposed slashing defense spending as well.


“Self-inflicted wounds to the American economy and military readiness are not an effective recipe for out-competing China, in my judgment.


“I hope our witnesses can provide the Committee more details than the administration’s press release included.


“It’s time to move past the platitudes to the particulars.


“I hope they will tell us about their ability to execute on 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 huge sums and the long-term funding that will be necessary to support it.


“I am also interested in learning about any alternatives to the proposed tax increases to finance these projects in a more efficient manner.


“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, and I want to thank you again, Mr. Chairman, for ensuring the Appropriations Committee has a voice in the debate.


“It is 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 we all agree are necessary to improve our nation’s infrastructure and boost the American economy for years to come.  Thank you.”