Thursday in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Congressman Michael Guest (MS-03) opposed the committee’s current budget reconciliation legislation and offered amendments to assist rural communities and reign in government spending.
Congressman Guest offered three amendments to:
- Dedicate $5,000,000,000 from the legislation to FEMA under the Disaster Relief Fund to assist vaccine distribution in Rural and Small States.
- Eliminate FEMA cost-share agreements to reduce federal spending.
- Repurpose 10 percent of airport grant funding in amounts over $100,000,000 to be used for grants to small and non-hub airports.
In his opening statement during the mark-up, Congressman Guest called for a measured, common-sense response to COVID-19 to ensure that all Americans are represented in the legislative process.
Below is Congressman Guest’s statement from the committee hearing.
I understand the sense of urgency by our colleagues across the aisle, especially as we approach one year of fighting COVID-19. I understand the desire to do something. However, this legislation does little to help many Americans. We need to be taking an economics and need-based approach to this issue, and the economic data doesn’t support the level of relief Democrats are proposing.
Unemployment is falling, consumer confidence is rising, growth in the economic sector is accelerating, and demand for homes remains high. On top of that, we still have $1 trillion, I repeat $1 trillion, in our previous relief packages that has yet to be spent. To put that into perspective, that’s almost the entire GDP of Australia that we have held in reserves to combat COVID-19. The money that falls under the scope of this committee is no different. Amtrak has yet to spend a dime of the $1 billion we provided them in December, and transit has only spent 40% of funds that we allocated through the CARES Act and the most recent package.
We need to be identifying the gap between what we’ve already done and what’s needed. According to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, the gap between our nation’s normal output and the current output would be $380 billion for the rest of 2021. That means this Democratic proposal could address this gap 4 times over. The data demonstrates that we need to slow down, create bipartisanship, create targeted legislation that addresses specific issues facing the American people.
We all agree that our focus needs to be on ending the pandemic, supporting access to vaccines, and assisting the economic recovery, but this legislation has left out millions of rural Americans and their needs in the recovery. They need us to continue to support vaccine manufacturing and distribution so that everyone who wants to get their shots can. They need us to expand access to vaccines for essential workers covered by this committee, workers like truckers, flight attendants, and municipal workers to get their vaccines in a flexible way that can let them continue working. Nowhere are these goals more important than rural America, where vaccinations sites are miles or even hours away and access to information is many times more difficult to come by.
Over the last year, we worked together on legislation that addressed the needs of Americans everywhere. This legislation is strong evidence as to why we need bipartisanship more than ever, because by excluding Republicans in developing this bill, you have excluded millions of rural Americans.
Release from Congressman Michael Guest.