The Infrastructure Bill Harms The American Dream

August 7, 2021

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

illegal immigration.

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

outlawed them.

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.