Barbara BoxerU.S. Senator Class 3
[D] California, United States

Length: 9 minutes, 58 seconds

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Mrs. BOXER. Mr. President, it has been a very long and winding road to get to this place. I am overwhelmed with the amazing vote we just had--the margin of success, the fact that this is the product that is not only bipartisan but bicameral. I understand that the House vote was equally lopsided in favor of passage. I think this sends a tremendous signal to the people of America, and that is that we can work together. Do not give up hope. When it comes to the well-being of our people, we must get together.

I know the President must be smiling broadly because he has stated over and over how important it has been for us to pass a highway bill and to pass a reduction in student loan interest rate bill in order to help our people.

I have said many times that what kept me going and so many others--and I am going to name the various chairmen whom I worked with here and over on the House side and staff--what really kept us all going is the fact that we know how hard the construction sector has been hit in this recession. The housing crisis started this recession. It has not gotten better. It is slowly coming around, but new construction is going to take a while before all of the inventories are back in their appropriate place.

What is going to help us? We could fill 10 Super Bowl stadiums with unemployed construction workers. We are looking at well over 1 million construction workers who are unemployed. Well, this was the answer.

The transportation sector is hurting. The construction sector is hurting. And today we have sent a message, a powerful message that for 2 years and 3 months, we have funded a good bill that is going to employ up to 3 million workers and help thousands of businesses, and it is all in the private sector, the things that need to be done.

We know we have 70,000 bridges that are deficient. We know we have 50 percent of our roads that are deficient. We know we have transit systems that need capital improvements. We know we have bike paths that need fixing and pedestrian walkways that need fixing. All of that has been resolved.

Are there things in this package that I do not like? Absolutely. Are there things in this package my Republican counterparts do not like? Absolutely. We had to give. We had to take. We struggled.

I am going to read into the Record the names of these staffers. This is an unbelievable list. I am going to do it quickly. I am going to say to these staffers from the various committees that they knew how important their work was.

If we didn't succeed, there would be no more money in the highway trust fund, and all of the repairs on our roads would stop and the repairs on our bridges because everybody out there, since President Dwight Eisenhower was President, depends on the Federal share.

We cannot have a strong economy without a strong infrastructure. Here are the names. I am not reading Democrats and then Republicans; I am reading the bipartisan list of staffers: Bettina Poirier, Ruth VanMark, David Napoliello, James O'Keeffe, Andrew Dohrmann, Murphie Barrett, Tyler Rushforth, Kyle Miller, Jason Albritton, Grant Cope, Mike Burke, Tom Lynch, Mark Hybner, Charles Brittingham, Alex Renjel, and Dimitri Karakitsos.

I also thank the leadership staff. When things were looking glum, there they were. They are David Krone, Bill Dauster, and Bob Herbert.

Here are the staff directors of the key committees who worked on this--remember, this was a four-committee process, including EPW, Banking, Commerce, and Finance. I thank Russ Sullivan, Dwight Fettig, Ellen Doneski and their extraordinary staff. They include Ryan Abrahams with the Finance Committee; Ian Jefferies, David Bonelli, Anna Laitin, and James Reid with the Commerce Committee; and Homer Carlisle with the Banking Committee.

I also want to thank the Senate legislative counsel, Rachelle Celebreeze and Gary Endicott, whom I drove crazy yesterday by telling them to please produce the paper.

This staff loved their work so much that I thought they would never end it. I had to beg them: Please finish because there will always be something more you can do. You can always find something better or put a comma in a different place. They wanted to make it as perfect as they could. There was a time when we just had to say, OK, we are done. They got it done. I am very moved of their dedication.

I know my staff at EPW--for 3 days, the staff members, whose names I read--if they got 4 or 5 hours of sleep, they got a lot. They are running on empty right now. I tell them that their names will forever be in this record, and people they don't know will flourish because of their work when we start hiring people to do this infrastructure work.

I thank my dear colleagues, Jay Rockefeller, Max Baucus, and Tim Johnson. No way could I have done it without them. I also pay tribute to Mary Landrieu, who is on the Senate floor today. Senator Landrieu and her State have gone through so many traumas--so many--with hurricanes and all of the attendant problems, and the BP oilspill, which did so much terrible damage to her State and the other Gulf States--environmental damage, commercial damage, broken hearts, broken spirits.

Let me tell you, you never break Mary Landrieu's spirit. She teamed up with Senator Vitter, and they wrote [Page: S4761] the RESTORE Act. Then she went to all of the other colleagues of the gulf cost and said: You have to help me. They put together a great package. What it means--without going into detail; she will do that--is that when the court decision comes down and the funds come to the Federal Government for all the violations of law that took place with the BP spill, 80 percent of the funds will be directed to the very people who got hurt.

Senator Landrieu, it is an honor and a privilege to work with you. You have been a model of a Senator who never, ever stops fighting. I am so grateful I was able to step to the plate and help you.

I will add more names of colleagues, but I don't have time at this point. Others want to speak. This is a great moment. The bill we passed is a good bill. It is going to speed up project delivery without waiving any environmental laws that we keep the protections in and give a little more flexibility to the States on the alternative transportation routes. But, believe me, we also add a new piece that gives more power to the local people to decide on these projects. I am so pleased.

I will add more statements to the Record later today. We have done this, and we are going to mark this moment.

After we get our breath back and get our energy back, we are going to look at a long-term solution to the problem of the highway trust fund. We know the gas tax receipts are going down, and we have to solve the problem. If it wasn't for Senator Baucus and his staff, we never would be at this point because we didn't have the funding. They have to come up with it. I thank them and the Republicans on the committee.

With that, I yield the floor, thanking one and all for this tremendous vote today.