tv Newsmakers Rep De Fazio CSPAN November 19, 2018 5:12pm-5:48pm EST
quick this week on newsmakers, congress member peter defazio, ranking member of the house transportation committee. also with us in the studio, tanya schnider. go ahead with the first question. >> let's start by asking about the infrastructure plan. you plan to start off the session with trying to get the infrastructure plan through. not unlike the one donald trump couldn't get through congress. i wanted to ask you about the politics of why you think republicans would be willing to go along with a big spending infrastructure bill, why you think democrats would go along with something donald trump could campaign on in 2020? rep. defazio: the president will not be able to claim credit that they control the senate, white house, and house.
they put forward an absurd plan based on asset recycling, based on privatization, polling, etc., which went nowhere with a republican congress. it would be laughable to talk about that in a democratic congress but when i was at the white house, the president didn't seem to be on board with his own advisors. he expressed an interest and recognition that we need real federal investment and new partnership with states in rebuilding america's infrastructure. just before the election, before he left washington, they had a white house congressional affairs came to visit me. i didn't even know they had a congressional affairs office, but they had their finger in the wind and we talked about areas where i could agree and potentially work with the president. there were two things, infrastructure and trade. she said there was a recognition
on the part of the president -- that we need to rebuild our infrastructure and make real federal investment. it is doable and a few colleagues have said you don't want to help trump. i said this is not about trump. it is about the united states of america and we have been ignoring these needs for a long time. the country is falling apart. americans get it. we have three examples. california's kevin mccarthy sponsored an initiative to repeal the gas tax increase. they failed miserably. tim walz, one of my colleagues, campaigned on a gas tax increase and turned that state from red to blue. he got one of the largest margins in history, and the new
governor of michigan red to blue. she said fix the roads. americans get it. it is not politically toxic and there is this bridge mitch mcconnell is interested in -- we can't do it with existing funds and the federal government can't help. >> you are likely to be the next chair of -- the house transportation committee. what is the timeline for any sort of bipartisan infrastructure bill? rep. defazio: i had a package of three bills with republican sponsors. one i am going to put forward. it passed out of my committee unanimously. paul ryan killed it through the rules committee. i think most americans say, i am paying the tax and they are stealing the money? it makes republicans uncomfortable. that should be easy. number two, our airports are gated out, it leads to higher ticket prices, people sitting on
the tarmac waiting to get a gate. it leads to longer time in the airport because we haven't reconfigured security needs. we need to allow airports to increase the facility charge, a program i was the democratic author of many years ago. we haven't allowed an increase in over 20 years, so that is part two and part three is the big one. surface transportation. that is outside my jurisdiction in terms of funding. i have been meeting with richie neal, the incoming chair of ways and means. he is supportive of the need of a revenue source. probably doing bonding with some kind of dedicated revenue, but a large number. my hope is we will do a short-term within six months
infrastructure package out of the house. that is not just my jurisdiction. for my jurisdiction, it would include wastewater buffer energy and commerce, drinking water, broadband for rural areas, schools, things that were in the original house recovery act that got stripped out by that jerk larry summers. we've got a lot to do and i got support from other incoming chairs. >> glad you brought up funding, because i want to drill down a little into the budget debate behind that. it is not particularly your jurisdiction, but you will have to cut a deal as the incoming head of the house transportation committee. how exactly are you going to pay for that? we saw with the last highway bill that lawmakers opted to not deal with the underlying problem come that we have an outdated
gas tax that doesn't bring in enough revenue to improve roads and bridges. what exactly can you square between the president and a republican senate that will become law? rep. defazio: well, the president -- i was at the meeting and i didn't rat him out, but the president did say he could sell $.25 the american people. a couple of senators said that publicly. >> a $.25 gas tax increase? rep. defazio: i said mr. president, we don't need that much. if we do bonding and dedicate part of a revenue increased bonding, we can generate a lot more money in the short term and in a way, we are kicking the can down the road, but we will ultimately move to vehicle miles traveled as we have more
penetration of electric vehicles. we are looking at what we can do short term, what can we do with a six-year bill. someone else will figure out what is the future funding of transportation, but right now, this is the best way to go. >> just a quick follow-up. did senate republicans indicated anyway they would be supportive of the fact -- gas tax increase if it is paired with bonding expansion, for example, or anything that matter? it wasn't just the present president? rep. defazio: the senator said democrat -- they will just attack you. i said i will stand in front of them. he is not enthusiastic about it and i don't know about others but we have seen, if the president takes the lead and wants infrastructure investment, that we can get it done. if we put a good bill out of the house and we sell it to the american people that this is
going to improve their commute time, it is going to -- sell it to business and industry in terms of what it will mean in terms of time delivery and goods. i think the senate would be hard-pressed to say we are not going to do anything. >> you have mentioned you would like to see return to earmarks. earmarks got a bad name because of the infamous bridge to nowhere. can you say a little more about why you think earmarks would be helpful and what kind of guard rails or rules you would put around it to make sure they are not abused? rep. defazio: i reformed the so-called earmark process. it really isn't in your market. -- really isn't an earmark. an earmark is when appropriators spend money on something that is not authorized. we have congressionally designated spending within the highway trust fund. i reformed that process when i chaired the subcommittee.
we are going to have a totally transparent process, you will submit your request online and it will be available for the public and the press and the watchdogs to review. you have to show that your project has local support. you have to show that your project is consistent with the state's long-term investment plan, and you have to sign an affidavit of no interest pecuniary in that project. i had over 400 members submit projects, bipartisan obviously. we were going to find a tiny fraction -- generally, the so-called earmarks or congressionally designated high-priority spending constituted 4% of total spending. let's let the political appointee determine where the money goes, let's let your bureaucrats in your state capital determine where the
money goes? how about the senator member of congress from the district that knows that area better says you are ignoring my district. we are pretty far from the state capital and there are problem -- projects that don't come to the attention of state democrats and the secretary of transportation. i think it is something that can be done and be done in a transparent way and in an accountable way. if anyone submits something that has huge local opposition, it is not going to go anywhere. the other part of the problem has been the senate because it pretends it is holier than thou and i'm sure they will again. we are not going to do earmarks, and we get to conference and the last couple of transportation bills and they said where are our projects? you didn't legislate projects. well, we want the money.
we want the projects. they don't go through a legislative process. we will in the house and i don't know how they'll handle it in the senate. >> congressman, i will pivot politics. i can talk to you about roads and bridges all day, but i want to ask, would you support nancy pelosi for speaker, and can you shed light as a longtime democrat in the house, what is this leadership tussle, how do you address that as someone who will be leading one of the committees of the house and the new congress? the democratic-led congress. what does this leadership fight mean more broadly about how democrats need to go about controlling the chamber next year and the caucus. rep. defazio: i don't talk about family discussions. >> do you have anything to say
about how democrats can maybe bridge the gap between progressive democrats and more moderate democrats in the house? that seems to be the main contention here currently. rep. defazio: look, i represent a swing district, but i founded the progressive caucus. i don't find an inherent conflict between being progressive and getting elected in a somewhat moderate or conservative district. i don't think the gap is that difficult to bridge, personally because i have been bridging it for a long time. >> i wanted to ask about self driving cars. pivoting back to transportation. generally, self driving cars are under the energy and commerce committee, not your jurisdiction but certainly in the next two
years, there will be other kinds of transportation, infrastructure initiatives that can help advance emerging technologies like self driving cars and i wanted to ask what thoughts you have about that as the incoming chair? rep. defazio: technically, energy and commerce has the jurisdiction there, but the self driving vehicles or driver assisted vehicles will be using the infrastructure we build and it has to be compatibility issues. i am friendly with the chair of that committee and we will be working together. we will be doing oversight on those issues, because dot, a few weeks ago, some idiot at dot will said we don't care about spectrum for self driving cars. wait a minute, everyone hearing says we need a dedicated spectrum because there has to be seamless communication between these vehicles. and dot walks that back next
week. we will be doing oversight in that area and i will partner with frank because you can't rebuild our infrastructure in isolation from the impact of self driving vehicles. it has tremendous potential to help with congestion when you are not sitting at the light for two minutes because someone is on their cell phones. there is tremendous potential, but it is going to require a lot of guidance from congress because dot doesn't seem to be dealing with it very well. >> your chairmanship next congress, can you talk about how -- what will the american people see are the biggest things about how you lead to the panel differently than the retiring
chairman? rep. defazio: tni transportation infrastructure is one of the less partisan committees in congress. we had historically worked together. we scheduled a date to drink beer and eat food. when we come back after thanksgiving, he'll probably be the republican leader on the committee. we will work together in most things. there are places we will disagree, but we can disagree on facts. it doesn't have to get ugly. it doesn't have to be unproductive. the biggest disagreement i had with the chairman was his advocacy for privatizing the national airspace. it took me three years, but i killed that idea and we work together to get the first long-term federal aviation administration bill since 1983 and we got consumer protection provisions in there and we are moving ahead. we have a tradition on the committee of working together and not being just a partisan
divided group like so many other committees in congress. >> do you plan to continue focus on a bill or is there something else you want to bring up? rep. defazio: it is every two years. we have six year service authorization coming up. years, we have worked to do with fema, work to do with tsa. there are a lot of things that are on the agenda that's coming up, and i think we have to reauthorize the pipeline safety act. there are a lot of things pending that have to be done and will be done in a bipartisan
way. >> you talked a little about self driving cars, but what else is down the road? what innovation, technology do you see that the american people will see your committee working on and you feel the government needs to help in that industry. rep. defazio: first off, the federal government has not been an honest partner with the states. we have had 26 states, many of them red states raise their gas tax or other user fees to fund infrastructure but infrastructure doesn't stop at the state line. we need an efficient national system. the federal government has not been a good partner. i am determined to make the federal government a better partner. wastewater, i was a county commissioner and we build our metropolitan wastewater management system. we had a strong federal partner. the federal government has walked away from that. we still send mandates to the states for clean drinking water, air pollution, but we are not helping them meet those goals and i think we can do a much better job there and
there will be a lot of can consist and the american public wants these things. it was one of the three or four things democrats ran on was rebuilding, restoring america's will infrastructure and i supported quite a number of the red to blue candidates and have been meeting with them since they got elected and talking with them. i think my committee is the number one choice for some of this new groups. they realize it is a place where we can get things done and do it in a way that is bipartisan. >> you mentioned one of the major responsibilities of congressional committees is oversight over the executive branch, and i want to ask about your top priorities for oversight as chairman of the transportation committee. rep. defazio: there is a lot of
talk about deregulation and getting government out of the way, but somehow dot has constructed an unbelievably torturous process of authorizing transit projects and they have clogged up the pipeline. there are rumors that is because of a dispute between schumer and the president because schumer is a big advocate for the gateway project. the president wants his wall and is trying to leverage that. i don't know, but the bottom line is even the republicans are pissed off. they said we appropriated these projects and you are not spending the money. get the money out there. that will be number one on my agenda, to drag some of those people in here and say why did you create this torturous new process that isn't putting the money out that has been appropriated. >> you mentioned gateway.
i'm glad you mentioned that project, one of the biggest problems with public transit on the east coast. can you tell me, do you think that an infrastructure bill is a place to do with problems scores is something congress will have to revisit with the highway bill, stand-alone legislation. what does congress need to do to help that along? >> we have adopted a title in the act, some minor emphasis, not enough funding. funding is at the root of most of these issues. we need to put new emphasis on projects of national and regional significance, gateway is one of those. create chicago is one of them. the bridge over the columbia river between oregon and
washington is a smaller version of those. we have projects around the country that will choke us if we take them to failure. the rail tunnel under baltimore that was built during the civil war. we simply can no longer ignore these problems or we will paralyze the country. bringing back and emphasizing projects of regional and national significance, putting more money into freight mobility, the bottom line is we need more federal funds. >> we have three minutes left. >> i want to ask you about the legacy, he is leaving congress at the end of the year after 16 years in the house. he has been chair of the committee for over fee years and his father before him. i wanted to ask you about the legacy he's leaving? >> it is the first time the
uster-lesswill be sch since i came here. i served with his dad. he was for the time in the minority then went to the majority. but -- bud and i worked on harbor maintenance. and we're still working on that. as i observed earlier this is , the first longtime federal aviation bill since he served on the committee. we have a tremendous legacy with that family. bill and i are good friends. we can disagree on things like privatizing air traffic control, then work on things that help move people and freight more efficiently. he has continued a tradition that i aspire to continue on that committee. >> i wanted to ask about
drinking water, what do you think the transportation infrastructure committee role is in dealing with drinking water issues. people think about contamination in flint, as one place where the federal government could have stepped in and provided the funding that the small jurisdiction could not handle for making massive repairs to a contaminated system. i think about other contamination issues like chemicals, can you talk about stuff like that. can you talk about what tni's role is and what oversight you plan to do? >> we have jurisdiction over wastewater. the energy and commerce committee has jurisdiction over drinking water. frank and i have been talking
about doing a joint bill because you cannot isolate those two things. one goes out in the wastewater is potential contaminants for the drinking water. we are talking about a major initiative that would come from both committees. we are in the early stages. it is easier for me to point to the funding for harbors or airports or roads, bridges, highways and transit, we have to get creative on funding sources for that. >> obviously there is more to talk to you about and will be doing that when you take over as a transportation infrastructure committee chair. thank you for being with us. >> thank you. >> let me turn to our to reporters. i will begin with you. the agenda that he has for this committee, is it doable?
>> the transportation committee has shown a can get a lot done. it is becoming partisan as revenue has become more of a problem as kelly mentioned. the highway trust fund has been teetering on the brink of insolvency for years now. it is been hard to get the political will to raise new revenue. i know that is one of the priorities of the incoming ranking member. that is the biggest sticking point. other than that, transportation infrastructure is one of the places in congress where democrats and republicans worked together. >> it is fascinating to me that congressman said that the president would support a $.25 increase. i'd be curious to hear what
senate republicans reactions were. also interesting that he said he was alone and supporting that among republicans. it speaks to the new dynamic that we have in the white house and how the house and senators -- it is a three way negotiation instead of, let's send something to the president. the president has been a builder, he likes to call himself that and talk about the projects he has built. he knows filling potholes is not something private industry can make money off of. i'm curious whether a gas tax proposal goes anywhere. some viewers will remember george bush one got in a lot of trouble for raising the gas tax.
people say that is part of why he was not reelected. i'm sure republicans will be talking to him about that. that speaks to a source of conflict in the house on the committee. >> it was interesting he said in the meeting the president said i can sell the gas tax increase. could there be a deal that is cut between democrats and president trump. >> i think president trump thought he could sell an infrastructure package and the republicans disposed of that when it came to the desk. it remained to be seen how much sway he has, how much political capital he puts behind in the one thing. as we have seen the past two
years, the focus swings wildly back and forth on a lot of different things and sometimes he might take a position on something but not necessarily spend the time on it and with the votes he needs. i don't know that i would count on that. and donald trump with this infrastructure package, which was a campaign initiative, a lot of people thought he did not do the work to sell it in congress. >> i think one of the hardest things about that, we do not need a big stimulus package. he said things to me talk about infrastructure, that will be a big hurdle to get over. the other thing is the fiscal situation has changed. the deficit is going up, the national debt is going up.
that will be a hard sell to a republican senate. on the other hand, what was one of the first things mcconnell mentioned as an area of common ground, infrastructure. it will be interesting to see, is this the same infrastructure talk that we hear. it is popular to talk about it but there's a running joke it is infrastructure week. or it is always infrastructure week. when push comes to shove we do not see the legislation go anywhere. >> if they don't pay for it with an increase in the gas tax, what are the other proposals on the table to pay for more spending? >> republicans would like to see a charge for example on repealing the tax credit. and that making them pay, the gas tax is how we pay for roads,
bridges, electric vehicles, that did not use gasoline are not paying for any of that. they would like to see them pay into that system. down the road, he mentioned the miles traveled fee which sam is a proponent of. most think that is a decade away, just in terms of technical paying taxstead of when they buy gas, to have an automatic odometer reading or gps reading to figure out where people are going into how far they are traveling and charged by the mile. it is complex. a lot of people think that is eventually where we are going but it will take time. >> you also look at the senate where rural representation is higher proportionately. rural senators will say we think
a vehicles mile traveled is unfair. our residents have to travel 30, 40 miles to go to the grocery store. why should they be penalized for the fact that the places they need to go on our space far out, or someone in the city can walk down the street to get what they need. it speaks to how there are these competing interests. when it comes to transportation everyone wants their hands on it but do not want the political blowback that has to do with what is expensive. the national highway system is an expensive asset. it is a federal asset. i think that the politics of recognizing that, is not something either republicans or democrats care to spend time on or effort on. it does not help them politically. it helps them to take a picture of shoveling dirt, but not increase prices at the pump.
when their constituents are trying to make in simi. >> kelly is the congressional reporter. thank you. >> thank you for having us. >> more live coverage this evening here on c-span as we get a look at the impact religious voters had on the midterm elections. that's at 6:30 eastern. you can watch the discussion streaming live online at www.c-span.org or listen live with the free c-span radio app app. tonight, lamar alexander discusses free speech on college campuses with deputy attorney general rod rosenstein. he chairs the education committee and talks about students protesting controversial speakers. >> is there anything different about the challenges we face today?
>> what is different today is the iphone. it has revolutionized all forms of activity, including all of our politics. but the principles are all the same. let me give you a story that illustrates this. the mostlins is moderate republican senator. she was invited to go to a northeastern university speech not long ago. several students told the administration that if she were allowed to speak without meeting with them first, they would disrupt her speech. the administration caved in to that request and susan met with them, which she didn't really think she should have to do. then she made the speech. what the administration did was to allow the students to callise what nadine would the heckler's veto. it allowed the students to prevent or threaten to prevent
the united states senator with whom they disagree from speaking on their colleagues -- the college campus. what the administration did that was wrong was caving into that. is, youshould have said may not attend, you may cross your arms, you may even turn around and look the other way. her speech and prevent others from hearing her, you will be punished, because it -- because you have no right under the first amendment to do that. >> senator alexander also served as education secretary during the bush administration. you can watch the entire discussion on campus free speech tonight at 8:00 eastern, here on c-span. >> listen to c-span's weekly podcast. this week, part one of a two-part interview with three nationally known presidential