[Congressional Record Volume 167, Number 19 (Tuesday, February 2, 2021)] [Senate] [Pages S220-S222] From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov] Nomination of Peter Paul Montgomery Buttigieg Mr. PETERS. Mr. President, I rise today in support of Pete Buttigieg's nomination to lead the Department of Transportation. Whether it is rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, maintaining our leadership in the global mobility race, or improving pipeline safety, there is no shortage of challenges facing our incoming Secretary. As a fellow midwesterner, as a former officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve, I can't think of anyone more equipped to take on this challenge than Pete Buttigieg. He understands the need to revitalize our infrastructure because he has seen it in our neighborhoods and on our roads each and every day when he served as a mayor. He has a unique understanding of how the Department can be a resource to State and to local governments and what can be done to ensure that the Federal Government supports those State and local governments and make sure that need gets addressed most effectively. If we are going to build back better, a partnership at each level of government will be absolutely vital. Having someone at the helm who recognizes that that relationship is so important will be an incredible asset to the Department. I have also had several conversations with Secretary-Designate Buttigieg on the auto industry, which is the very beating heart of our manufacturing economy. And as the industry advances both toward electrification and self-driving technologies, it will be critical that we support these technologies and make sure that they are safely deployed and that they are deployed here in the United States. We have an opportunity to save lives but also to create jobs and empower our domestic auto industry to take the moonshot for artificial intelligence and spur technological innovation, and I am pleased that Secretary-Designate Buttigieg has committed to working with us as we craft legislation that establishes a Federal framework around these new technologies. Finally, I am excited to work with Secretary-Designate Buttigieg on improving pipeline safety, especially around the Great Lakes. We know that line 5, under the Straits of Mackinac, poses a very serious threat to the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes are not only an economic driver and natural resource for our country, they are literally in the DNA of every Michiganian. As a midwesterner and as husband to a Michigan native who was born and raised in Traverse City, Secretary-Designate Buttigieg fully recognizes the need to protect the Great Lakes. I agree with Mayor Pete's belief that, as he says, ``good transportation policy can play no less a role than making possible the American dream.'' I am proud to support Pete Buttigieg's historic nomination, which has already garnered bipartisan support, and I urge all of my colleagues to vote for him. The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Tennessee Mrs. BLACKBURN. Mr. President, ahead of our votes today, I wanted to echo the concerns that have already been voiced by many of my colleagues in this Chamber regarding the nomination of Alejandro Mayorkas to be the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. At this point, we are all very familiar with his long legacy of service on behalf of people of the United States, so I will just highlight one example of the ``value'' that he will bring to the table should the Senate vote to confirm him. When he served as USCIS Director during the Obama administration, the inspector general was forced to investigate an ``extraordinary'' number of internal allegations that Mayorkas was granting ``special access and special favors'' to wealthy EB-5 ``investor visa'' applicants linked to influential Democrats. When the IG took a closer look at the visa applications for three powerful Chinese nationals in particular, they came to the conclusion that if Mayorkas hadn't intervened, and I am quoting, ``the matter would have been decided differently.'' Now, this is something that we know is inappropriate. We know that this is something for which Mr. Mayorkas should be held accountable. We know that this is something for which he has not been held accountable, and here is what he did: He put his thumb on the scale, pressured his DHS colleagues--pressured his DHS colleagues--to break their own rules and turn the law on its head, all because a few powerful friends asked him to do it. He pressured others for the benefit of some powerful friends, and it is all there for everyone to read in the inspector general's report, and he was never held accountable. Yet, here we are, being asked to support his nomination to the President's Cabinet. There are plenty of policy differences between myself and Mr. Mayorkas that have convinced me I have no choice but to stand in opposition to his confirmation. But the example I just cited, in particular, gives me additional serious concerns about how his influence would affect the integrity of the Agency. Just last week, I joined several of my colleagues in a letter to the senior Senator from Illinois, asking him to exercise his judgment as the incoming chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and allow for a second hearing so we could examine Mr. Mayorkas's record thoroughly because, while I believe that the President has every right to assemble his Cabinet, I also believe that the American people have every right to understand exactly who is [[Page S221]] being put in charge of enforcing our Nation's immigration laws and keeping our border secure, enforcing counterterrorism measures and keeping an eye on the country's cybersecurity. And the current nominee? Never held accountable for showing favor to some friends in high places. That is not the way this is supposed to be. I would urge my colleagues to consider the American people--the taxpayers who are footing the bill for every salary that is given to every individual working with the Federal Government. What is the standard? What do they expect from their leaders? Thereby, I oppose the nomination. I yield my time. I suggest the absence of a quorum. The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll. The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll. Ms. CANTWELL. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded. The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered. Ms. CANTWELL. Mr. President, I come to the floor today to support the nomination of Pete Buttigieg to be Secretary of Transportation. We all know the nominee as Mayor Pete--a man who basically came on to the national stage as a Midwest mayor who had lots of enthusiasm for making investments in America's future. So today we are considering his nomination to be Secretary of Transportation at a time when we need a lot of work done on transportation. In my opinion, he is a young, energetic mayor who is going to help us usher in a new era of transportation. That means there is going to be a lot of bipartisan dialogue about how we get there. But this job should not be underestimated in terms of the importance of the transportation sector and the investments for the future that we need. Our transportation system serves as a backbone of our economy, and when it is not doing well, the consequential impact of that affects our economy. It affects how our businesses compete in a global economy. It affects how people get to and from work, and it affects their home life as well. So it is a big job that we have, and I know that this mayor and future Secretary of Transportation understands how big this challenge is. We have underinvested in our infrastructure for decades. In the past 10 years alone, we have underfunded our infrastructure needs by $1.5 trillion. The American Society of Engineers estimates that we need to invest $5.6 trillion in our infrastructure over the next two decades, or the United States stands to lose about $10.3 trillion in GDP. I know this because my State knows this. I think the Presiding Officer knows this as well. If the transportation infrastructure doesn't work, goods and services don't get through your ports, they don't get to their destination, and businesses choose other vehicles or other avenues for the products to be delivered. America needs to be competitive. The American public also knows that poor infrastructure and the problems they see in their communities have to be addressed, whether that is concrete crumbling off of bridges, delayed trains, buses, congestion, railroads, or any of many issues. Just this week, a highway in California slid into the ocean, disrupting traffic along the famous Highway 1, and this could be a delay for months. I know, again, the Presiding Officer understands this as well as the State of Washington. Mother Nature doesn't always comply with our transportation needs. So while these investments and numbers may seem huge to people, it is what this investment will enable that we need to keep focused on. We need to focus on the fact that the United States makes and grows things, and we need to get them to their destinations. We need people be able to get to their places of employment. So we need someone at the Department of Transportation who is enthusiastic about taking on these challenges and helping President Biden administer a new era of transportation and the challenges that we face. Mayor Buttigieg--a Harvard graduate, Rhodes Scholar, former U.S. Reservist who I believe served in Afghanistan--also understands the challenges of smalltown mayors and the impacts that transportation systems can have. He knows the challenges we now face because of COVID- 19, that there is a new burden on our transportation system because of the impact of lost revenue. State departments of transportation estimate $50 billion in lost revenues over the next 5 years. Airports have lost $23 billion because of people no longer flying. Transit agencies will have lost an estimated $50 billion by the end of 2021. These losses will continue to compound until we find the best way to protect our transportation workers, our travelers, and to continue to help with personal protective equipment, testing, vaccines, and clear, health-based protocols to help return safety to our transportation system and to build public confidence. That is one of the reasons why we are fighting so hard for this next package of investments. President Biden took decisive action by mandating that people wear masks, which is a giant step forward in our transportation system. I think there is more we can do, and hopefully our colleagues can work together on that. The long-term revenue outlet for transportation also is changing, and so it will be a long time before its recovery. So I believe that Mayor Pete Buttigieg is the right choice for this job because he was mayor of South Bend. He dealt with infrastructure where the rubber meets the road--managing State, Federal, and local resources to help build infrastructure in his community. He also helped facilitate public-private partnerships to make the dollars go farther, an important model for future investments in transportation. One of those projects, the South Shore double-track project, whose full funding grant agreement was signed earlier this month, is like many other State and local projects. The South Shore double track demanded impressive coordination between Federal, State, and local governments to bring it to fruition. Mayor Buttigieg's Smart Streets Initiative also shows he knows how to operate and succeed in the current environment and will be able to help communities around the country replicate the success he had in South Bend. He won't be the first mayor to be the Secretary of Transportation, but I think we can say that when you have a mayor in that job, they are going to pay attention to local transportation infrastructure investments to help our communities continue to grow and be competitive. We have a major opportunity, I believe, to now deliver on the infrastructure needs of many of those communities. We should start immediately by talking about infrastructure packages and working on a transportation infrastructure plan for the 21st century because it is clear we have opportunities this year, with the surface transportation programs expiring in September. Communities everywhere are demanding that we help work on these important issues for their communities, but Mayor Buttigieg will also be called on to think about the new era of transportation and how we maintain ou competitiveness. He will have to think about issues of ensuring safety with new autonomous vehicle technologies and unmanned aircraft. He will have to promote stronger emission standards for automobiles, aviation, and the maritime industry. He will have to support the continued growth of electric vehicle infrastructure. He will have to make big investments in game-changing projects that will help us move freight more cost-effectively through our Nation. People will want to know and understand what our reliable passenger rail, transit systems, roads, and investments in bridges are going to be for the future. So all of this is a big challenge, but I know that this nominee is up to that challenge. He did well at the committee in making sure that people understood that he believes that those challenges need to be addressed in order for America to continue to move forward. From my perspective, just in the State of Washington, before COVID had really hit, we saw 78 hours per year of delayed traffic; that is, the average commuter spent 78 hours in delayed traffic. A recent study in my State estimated that Washingtonians lost more than $7.4 billion each year in lost time [[Page S222]] and wasted fuel due to congestion, deteriorated roads, and safety problems. As America starts to head back to the office, no one wants to spend time back in that world of congestion, and so we need to make critical investments. People in Puget Sound know that we need to fix the West Seattle Bridge. They know in Southwest Washington that the Columbia River needs a new bridge across I-5. In Eastern Washington, they know that we need a north-south corridor. In Everett, they know that the trestle needs replacement if goods from Eastern Washington are going to get to the Port of Everett and out the door. All of these things are investments, and with them come the structures of things like at-grade crossings, passenger rail systems, and safety that are huge, I believe, infrastructure investments that have not been quite appreciated. I was very pleased to get Mr. Buttigieg's commitment during our session with him that these things-- at-grade crossings, port competitiveness, and moving products safely-- should be a big priority for the future. The Lander Street project in Seattle, which was an investment of the new freight program, is just a few blocks, but literally, congestion for hours had stopped traffic from getting from I-5 to the Port of Seattle. The Lander Street project in a lot of ways represents what it really is: a bridge to the future, a bridge to get people moving where they need to go, and the right investment, being competitive for the future. We are going to face many more delays if America doesn't remain competitive. So I look forward to working with Mr. Buttigieg on all of these issues. He also, during the committee hearing process, committed that he will continue to work with Senator Wicker and me on important issues of aviation safety. He committed to us that he understood that aviation safety and the FAA need to continue to make reforms. I believe that if you want to be the leaders in aviation, you have to be the leaders in aviation safety. I think Mayor Buttigieg understands that will be a very big job of the Department of Transportation as well. I enthusiastically support this nominee. I look forward to the type of focus he can give to the Department of Transportation. This area of our government right now needs to address the COVID crisis. It needs to help us plan for a better transportation system of the future. It needs to understand that this transportation infrastructure and investment in these changes in these sectors--cars, planes, and passenger systems are all very dynamic, changing industries, and so our competitiveness will be at stake as well. So I encourage my colleagues to support this nominee. I am sure we will hear a lot of discussion from him and a lot of bipartisan effort to help get our transportation system fully funded. I yield the floor Mr. VAN HOLLEN. Mr. President, I rise today to express my support for the nomination of Mayor Pete Buttigieg to be the Secretary of the United States Department of Transportation. I believe Mayor Buttigieg's experience serving the people of South Bend, IN, as mayor and his service in the U.S. Navy Reserve position him well to lead the Biden administration's ambitious infrastructure and climate-related agenda at the Department of Transportation. In coordination with Congress, Mayor Buttigieg will face numerous challenges as the Transportation Secretary concerning issues important to Marylanders. We must reauthorize WMATA to maintain and improve metro rail and bus service to Maryland's DC suburbs, develop transit solutions for Baltimore city and other jurisdictions throughout the State, and provide pandemic relief assistance for Maryland's motor coach and transit industries not included in the CARES Act and for whom the most recent bipartisan package was only a down payment. We also should focus on repairing and modernizing our infrastructure, investing in local projects, working with other Federal partners to expand access to broadband, addressing environmental concerns such as air and noise pollution plaguing our communities from air traffic, and connecting communities through the removal of aging infrastructure. As Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg will also play a vital role in implementing Presidents Biden's climate change agenda. As one of the youngest Cabinet Secretaries in decades and the first openly gay member of a Presidential Cabinet, Mayor Buttigieg's nomination presents an opportunity to bridge the gap between the Federal Government and younger generations of Americans and communities traditionally underrepresented by leadership in government. I am confident in Mayor Buttigieg's ability to take on these urgent challenges. And I look forward to voting yes on his nomination and working closely with him in the years ahead to tackle the issues facing our national infrastructure and transportation system. Ms. CANTWELL. I suggest the absence of a quorum. The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll. The bill clerk proceeded to call the roll. The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Lujan). The Senator from Rhode Island. Mr. REED. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded. The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.