“After 100 days of rescue and renewal, America is ready for takeoff, in my view.” This is how President Biden described the state of the union in his first joint address to Congress just over a year ago. A lot can change in a year, and the President’s rosy prediction of a “takeoff” turned out to be a failure to launch. The Nation and our economy have been grounded by this administration’s inability to effectively address the biggest crises facing our country.
Most noteworthy, the President is under widespread criticism for perpetuating a persistently grim economic outlook, with inflation at a 40-year high, supply chain issues refusing to subside, and employers struggling to fill jobs. And yet many of the President’s policies are making these problems worse not better.
As his poll numbers remain abysmally low, the President continues to reach for any self-proclaimed victories, including the massive Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).
Despite concerns over the scope, cost, and unconventional process that led to IIJA’s passage, it is now the law of the land. Congress must ensure IIJA is implemented as it was written not in a selective manner that promotes a partisan woke agenda that clearly was not included in the law. Congressional oversight in the coming months and years will require absolute transparency and direct communication from the administration to enable us to do our jobs effectively.
So far, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee leadership has had one limited briefing about IIJA implementation, but that’s all. No full committee briefings, and no testimony from high-ranking officials.
With other harmful Biden administration actions that add more red tape, regulatory burdens, and costs in building infrastructure, we must prevent any further funding value loss from waste, fraud, or abuse.
Because the fact of the matter is, if the current economic crisis continues, the infrastructure law will not provide anywhere near the punch that was promised.
Record inflation, exacerbated by worker shortages, is significantly eroding the value of the law’s $1.2 trillion. Inflation is hitting the transportation and construction industries even harder than the general economy. Gas and diesel prices are currently up 51% and 75% respectively over last year.
An Eno Center for Transportation report recently examined the national highway construction cost index, which is typically higher than the consumer inflation rate. The most recent highway construction cost index update in September 2021 shows that highway construction costs have more than doubled since 2003. The report went on to highlight the danger of continuing inflation completely wiping out IIJA’s entire funding increase.
With such economic forces already impacting this funding, we must ensure states can address their specific needs, including building new infrastructure where necessary. Astonishingly, the administration issued guidance to states in December indicating that any new roads should be considered secondary to other investments more in line with the President’s green agenda. This guidance is a striking example of the administration seeking to impose policies that are contrary to the law, and it has caused significant confusion among states who are in the process of planning how to use these funds. What’s worse, not only was this policy considered and rejected by the Senate negotiators during the development of IIJA, but the administration has also refused a request from Republican members of my Committee to rescind this guidance. In fact, they have since doubled-down on it. The administration must implement the law as it was written, not as it wishes it had been drafted.
Infrastructure is one of the most tangible issues for Americans from roads connecting people to jobs, to trucks and trains delivering everyday necessities to store shelves, to pipelines safely bringing energy to our homes. It’s not just a talking point infrastructure matters.
If the President refuses to heed the letter of the law and respect the role of Congressional oversight, he will fail to deliver on an issue for which he has been taking a victory lap. That’s yet another failure his administration and our country can’t afford.
• U.S. Representative Sam Graves, Missouri Republican, is a small businessman, a sixth-generation family farmer, and a professional pilot. As the lead Republican member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and with over two decades of experience on the Committee, Graves has been instrumental in various laws to improve America’s highways, bridges, airports, ports and waterways, flood protection, disaster preparedness, and other infrastructure. His role in transportation is critical as he works on behalf of Missouri’s 34,000 highway miles and 10,400 bridges in need of maintenance and repair as well as the 6th Congressional District’s two major rivers the Missouri and the Mississippi.