Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend and colleague for yielding the time, and I yield myself such time as I may consume.
I rise to express my disappointment, not necessarily in this measure, but in how it has come about. We are here considering a rule for five unrelated measures the day before we recess for the 4th of July. Once again, we are rushing to the floor with vital legislation that most Members have hardly had the chance to read. This rule is the very embodiment of congressional dysfunction.
While my colleagues are busy playing political games, our Nation's infrastructure is crumbling, and we all know that. Tuition costs are rising, and we all know that. The economy is struggling. Perhaps, if my Republican friends weren't so preoccupied with appeasing their base, we wouldn't find ourselves in this position yet again.
We could have taken care of student loans back in March when the House first considered a measure to keep current rates. However, instead of paying for it in a way that was amenable to both sides of the aisle, the Republican leadership chose to pay for it by cutting much-needed preventative health funding. The President said he would veto the bill in this form, yet Republicans still chose to waste this body's time and defer to the Senate to come up with an affordable pay-for.
The transportation bill we are considering has been an even longer time in coming--over 3 years to be exact. While the conference report is not perfect, it is clear that we must pass a long-term reauthorization so that construction projects all across the country can move forward with repairing and improving our Nation's aging transportation system and infrastructure. Yet, once again, we find ourselves racing against the clock.
Without a long-term bill, opportunities to truly invest in our Nation's infrastructure and economy will continue passing us by. Without a long-term bill, construction projects all across the country could shut down. Without a long-term bill, 3 million Americans will be faced with not having a job after Saturday. We should not have to pass nine extensions over 3 years' time to get to this point, and we would be better served than this 27th-month extension if we did a 4- or a 5-year bill.
Infrastructure investments are essential to our Nation's economic growth and prosperity. This reauthorization should never have been held hostage by political gamesmanship. There is simply too much at stake. Short-term extensions put millions of jobs and the safety of our Nation at risk by casting great uncertainty on long-term transportation and infrastructure projects. This is unacceptable.
[Time: 09:30] While I'm not happy about every provision in the flood insurance portion of this conference report, after 10 years since its last reauthorization and countless short-term extensions, it's about time that we get a long-term extension.
The National Flood Insurance Program insures 5.6 million properties across every State in the Nation. Yet, one Senator from Kentucky refused to allow the bill to go forward on the most specious of reasons, a vote on abortion. I have yet to hear the Senator explain what abortion has to do with flood insurance or why he would threaten the security of the homes of all those Americans just to make a political point. I guess I shouldn't be too surprised. Last night, I read where he said just because two or more persons at the Supreme Court make a decision, that doesn't mean that it's constitutional. I hope this guy goes back to law school, if he ever went.
Finally, on today's underlying appropriations measures, I can only say: here we go again. Once again, the Republicans refuse to provide the necessary funds to reach the hardest-hit Americans. Once again, the Republicans kowtow to corporate power rather than provide the resources to keep rampant excesses at bay. And once again, my friends on the other side of the aisle choose to undermine the long-term priorities of this Nation in favor of partisan posturing.
I've said before and I maintain again and now that the Republicans are living in a world of let's pretend. In ``Alice in Wonderland,'' Alice said that ``if she had a world of her own, everything would be nonsense.'' In the Republican world, as Alice said, ``Nothing is what it is, because everything is what it isn't.'' In the Republican world, Mr. Speaker, the best way to rein in the most corrupt practices of Wall Street is to underfund the SEC; the best way to close a $400 billion tax gap is to force the IRS to fire thousands of taxpayer support employees; and the best way to ensure our national defense is to continue to pump in billions and billions of dollars into nuclear weapons that serve no earthly purpose but to destroy our Earth. What part of ``we have enough nuclear weapons to destroy every human being 25 times'' do we not understand? In this world, increasing unemployment somehow improves our economy; defunding essential government programs somehow helps the hardest-hit Americans; and cutting domestic programs in health care, education, infrastructure, and economic development while increasing Defense Department funding somehow serves the long-term needs of this country. Well, it doesn't. For months we've known that student loan rates were set to rise; for months we've known that the highway bill was going to expire; and for months we've done nothing but use the House floor as a political playground.
Mr. Speaker, our country cannot prosper if every major piece of legislation is held hostage to partisan interests. As Alice said--again referring to ``Alice in Wonderland''--``of all the silly nonsense, this is the stupidest tea party I've ever been to in all my life.'' With that, I reserve the balance of my time.