WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) delivered floor remarks regarding how the infrastructure bill has misplaced priorities.
To watch Senator Blackburn’s speech, click below or here.
You can read the transcript below or in the Congressional Record.
Mr. President, I want to concur with my colleague
from Tennessee in his beautifully stated remarks and the way he has
brought forward the frustration that Tennesseans have.
You know, I had the opportunity to be at home yesterday. We have a
great event going on in Nashville this weekend. It is called the Grand
Prix. I had the opportunity to be at the opening event with a lot of
women, small business owners. I had the opportunity later in the day to
go cut the ribbon for a big county fair and see lots of families and
talk to families who were there. Do you know what? They are completely
confused with what is going on.
See, Tennesseans are really smart. They watch what is happening in
Washington, DC. They are so concerned about the future and about
freedom and freedom's cause, and they continue to say, as my colleague
from Tennessee stated, that they want the best for their children and
for their grandchildren because they appreciate the American dream.
Many of them have lived the American dream, whether they are a farmer
or a teacher; whether they are a lawyer, an accountant, a mom, a dad,
somebody who owns a small business on Main Street in one of our 95
counties in our beautiful towns. They have lived it. They are living it
every single day--blood, sweat, tears, working long hours, investing.
They look at what is happening here in Washington, and they are saying:
Why are you in such a rush to force us into bankruptcy?
You know, July 6, 2010--I use this statement all the time, Mr.
President. Someone you and I each know because of our work on Armed
Services: Admiral Mullen. July 6, 2010, he was asked a question: What
keeps you up at night? What is the greatest threat to our Nation's
freedom, our democracy? Do you know what he said? He said: Our Nation's
Now, let me walk you back through the history of that debt. If we
were to go from the time that George Washington became President up
until the time that George W. Bush stepped out of office, our Nation
had accrued a total of $10.6 trillion in debt--too much for me.
When I would go to the White House with President Bush, I would say:
Mr. President, there are two things that I think need to be addressed.
No. 1 is the out-of-control Federal spending, and No. 2 is the issue of
Well, he left office $10.6 trillion in debt, but still very mild
compared to what we are facing today, I think we would have to say.
Now, President Obama took office, and he and Joe Biden went to work.
Do you know what they did in 8 years? They ended up just about doubling
our Nation's debt--double.
President Trump came in, tried to pare back on regulations and cut
the size of the Federal Government. And then we had COVID. That added
to the debt.
Then here comes President Biden, and it is as if the printing presses
have cranked up on printing those dollar bills, running them through as
fast as they possibly can, because what the Biden administration and
Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi had pushed through was $1.9 trillion,
saying that was necessary for CARES, even though all that money that
had previously been spent had not been--or that had been appropriated
had not been spent.
Now, here we have $1.2 trillion. As my colleague said, it has become
this bill of, here is a little bit for infrastructure, but, oh, by the
way, over here, here is this great big downpayment on the Green New
Deal. Don't worry that we don't generate enough electricity for an
electric vehicle fleet; we will figure that one out later. Let's just
put in subsidies for electric vehicles. Don't worry about giving more
power to the Federal Government; we will give you back authority, local
governments, if we think you need it. So $1.2 trillion in spending.
Then we hear that the bonus round in this lollapalooza is going to be
$3.5 trillion, but more likely, the realistic view is, it is going to
be $5 trillion.
So back to my point, people in Tennessee are saying ``What in the
world could you possibly be thinking? What could you possibly be
thinking?'' because they know the history of this Nation's debt.
Do you know what? And this really relates to much of the work that we
do in SASC. They know that there is a threat from the people who own or
hold our debt. Japan, our friend and ally, is at the top of the tier
right now. The last time I checked last month on who owns our debt, you
know, No. 2 is China. They own well over $1 trillion or hold over $1
trillion dollars of our debt. If you put the OPEC nations together--
and, of course, after the Keystone Pipeline, we are now dependent on
and others for fuel. We were energy independent thanks to President
Trump and Republicans in the House and Senate. We were energy
independent. But OPEC is there in that top five, all those OPEC
countries grouped together.
So people in Tennessee are really quite--they are miffed. They are
put off by what is going on.
I was really surprised. I had a text this morning from one of my
county mayors: I am all for infrastructure. I am for the Cornyn
amendment. But you know what, I am not for this bill because you have
got less--or about 25 percent of this that goes for something that we
would deem infrastructure.
Tennesseans love to talk about infrastructure as four things. They
talk about roads, river, railways, and runways. And, of course, we are
a logistics State. Everyone knows Memphis has a big port and a rail
hub, one of two cities where all five class A railroads come into that
city. They know that interstates are important. They crisscross our
State--indeed, Nashville, where you have three major interstates that
crisscross right there in the middle of that city. They know that
Tennessee--so many businesses choose to locate there because we are
within an 8-hour drive of a majority of the Nation's population.
Logistics require good roads and rivers and rail and runways, but,
you know what, they are not seeing it in this. When you, in the name of
infrastructure, spend this amount of money--now, I have great respect
for my colleagues on each side of the aisle who have worked to produce
a product, to do it in a bipartisan way. That is commendable. It is
commendable. For Tennesseans, the result is something that is
frustrating to them.
You know, this is considered to be the world's greatest deliberative
body. I always appreciated how our former colleague Senator Alexander
would talk about the cup and saucer. The hot coffee gets poured into
the cup. It spills over into the saucer. It cools off. You add some
sweetener, and you get something that you enjoy. People expect more.
They expect better of this deliberative body.
Tennesseans know that our Nation's freedom has been well-served by
robust, respectful, bipartisan debate. That is a good thing. It
strengthens freedom. It brings people together. It brings them to the
table to talk about what is their priority.
Now, unfortunately, most of us in this body have not had the
opportunity to be at that table. Amendments that we have worked on that
we felt like would have improved this bill are not going to be heard--
not here, not in a hearing, in a committee. We are just not going to
see that as a part of this process. That is unfortunate, and it is
going to be unfortunate if, indeed, that happens on the next bill or
the bill after that or the bill after that. We should return to regular
order and go through this process.
Now, I had about 30 amendments that I had offered as improvements for
this bill. Rest assured, I am not going to stand here and go through
each and every one of those amendments, but there are some things that
I thought needed our attention in this bill.
As many of my colleagues know, broadband is something that, whether I
was serving in the House or back in the State senate in Tennessee or
before that, going in and reorganizing the Tennessee Film,
Entertainment and Music Commission for our Governor, broadband and
moving from analog to digital, making high-speed internet available all
across our State, closing that digital divide--I have spent so many
hours working on this. I filed three amendments that I felt like would
really do some damage control on these and help close the divide,
getting to our rural and unserved areas, people who have no internet.
Amendment No. 2327 would have prohibited the Federal Government from
forcing municipal broadband provider programs into States that have
Now, Tennessee is one of those States that say to municipalities: If
you want to serve people within your city, that is great. You go ahead.
But you can't go outside of your boundaries.
There are other States that have had this issue. There is a reason
they say: If you serve your constituents, great, but don't go outside
that. It is because States that have allowed these schemes ended up
banning them for a reason. Usually it is because these government-run
systems would end up imploding, leaving the taxpayers with a bill that
they were going to have to pay.
Now, another amendment, amendment No. 2377, would have prohibited the
FCC, our Federal Communications Commission, from implementing price-
setting schemes on broadband providers. Allowing the FCC to do that
rate-setting and price-setting would destroy investment in rural
broadband. It would destroy it. We know this. And it would actually
incentivize providers in avoiding these unserved areas. Sometimes we
talk about that as being that last mile that needs to get that fiber,
that last mile that needs fixed wireless, that last mile that is
needing some form of connectivity.
Amendment No. 2328--and we do hope this one makes it in the bill--
would strike language permitting regulators to allow these broadband
grant recipients to use the money for--and I am quoting the language in
the bill--``any use determined necessary . . . to facilitate the goals
of the program.'' Now, this sounds vague. It is vague. If there is one
thing that we learned prior when we put a lot of money out during
President Obama's time, it is that sometimes this money ends up not
being targeted to broadband but ends up as a slush fund.
We also have an amendment that will deal with a shovel-ready
infrastructure project on our southern border. Amendment 2406 would
redirect $1 billion from Amtrak. By the way, Amtrak is getting many
billions of dollars in this bill. And it would send that money over to
the Department of Homeland Security to finish the southern border wall
We all know what is happening on that border: record numbers of
illegal aliens coming in, many very sick, COVID-positive. We know that
they are ending up--as are drugs, as are gangs--in cities and towns
across this Nation. Indeed, until we secure the southern border, every
town is a border town, every State is a border State.
God bless our law enforcement officers who are fighting this every
day. I am hearing from them, and I want them to know I hear them, and I
understand the pressures that they are under.
We also know that our communities are struggling trying to get back
to work and really move forward with regrowing the economy, but
inflation has gotten in the way.
One of the big problems that people point to with the high cost of
fuel and logistics and the packing materials is the killing of the
Keystone Pipeline. Amendment 2298 would amend section 4034 of the bill,
which calls for a study on job loss and impacts on consumer energy due
to the revocation of the permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline. My
amendment says that if the report shows that killing the pipeline
caused numerous job losses and an impact on consumer energy costs, that
the President should revoke--he shall revoke his Executive order and
get out of the way of the pipeline construction.
Get people back to work and get the prices at the pump, get them
down. Get them down to where they were when President Trump left
office. I mean, what is the purpose of a report if it doesn't have any
teeth? So let's take an action on that.
There is no bill that is ever perfect. They all have to be worked on.
Many times, we come back a year or so later, and we do technical
corrections on a bill. We make changes. And this is no different. This
bill needs time. It needs a thorough amendment process. It needs to go
back to the committees of jurisdiction to work through these issues.
Are the American people for infrastructure? Yes, they are for
infrastructure. Tennesseans are for infrastructure. I am for
infrastructure projects. Yes, indeed. Am I for this piece of
legislation? No, because it is a document that has misplaced
I yield the floor.