Topics: Nicole R. Nason, Federal Highway Administration
Senator Tom Carper
Congressional Record: 116th Congress
28 March 2019
EXECUTIVE CALENDAR The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, the Senate will proceed to executive session to consider the following nomination, which the clerk will report. The legislative clerk read the nomination of Nicole R. Nason, of New York, to be Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration. The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, there will be 15 minutes of debate, equally divided in the usual form. The Senator from Delaware. Mr. CARPER. Mr. President, I am pleased to join my friend and colleague, Senator Barrasso, to speak on behalf of the nomination of Nicole Nason to serve as Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration. Ms. Nason is currently serving as the Assistant Secretary for Administration [[Page S2078]] at the State Department. Right now, though, there is no Administrator leading the Federal Highway Administration. In fact, it has been more than 2 years since we had an Administrator in charge at that important Agency. The last time our country went this long without top leadership at the Federal Highway Administration was more than 100 years ago, back when the Agency was known as the Bureau of Public Roads. Henry Ford had just introduced the Model T, and the idea of speedy and safe transcontinental travel was still outside of our imagination and even further from being realized. Today the Federal Highway Administration oversees more than 220,000 miles of our National Highway System and some 145,000 bridges. The sad truth is, many of these roadways and many of these bridges are in poor, in some cases, even dangerous condition, having been in use far beyond the intended duration of their original design. Moments from now, when Ms. Nason is confirmed--and I hope she will be confirmed--to be our Administrator, I think she is going to inherit responsibilities and political realities far more challenging and complex than perhaps all of her predecessors. As our next Administrator, Ms. Nason will find herself at the center of a national crisis because our highway trust fund is going broke, and the system of paying for it is broken. Last year, we spent about $11 billion more from the highway trust fund than we collected in revenues. When that happens, the highway trust fund turns to the general fund, Treasury, and says: How about $11 billion? The general fund doesn't have $11 billion, so what Treasury does is it issues debt in order to finance the hole in the trust fund, the general fund, so we can actually fund the hole in the highway trust fund. It is crazy. In fact, to pay for the FAST Act, we took $70 billion from the general fund and other programs. For the next Transportation bill, we need to find an additional $68 billion--$68 billion--just to prevent the highway trust fund from going broke for 5 more years and to keep our programs at the current funding level. We all know that the current funding isn't sufficient, either. Despite spending more than we collect, we still aren't spending enough. The backlog of money to rehabilitate and improve highways and bridges in this country has grown to $800 billion. The backlog for roads, highways, and bridges is $800 billion. The 800-pound gorilla in the room is really an $800 billion gorilla. We have to figure out how we are going to pay to maintain or better yet rebuild and modernize our roads, highways, bridges, and transit systems. That should be near the top of our to-do list. It is not just the Senate, not just the House, not just the Congress, not just the administration, but all of us together. Whether or not it is fair, Ms. Nason's job as Administrator will be made either easier or all the more difficult by Congress's ability or inability and the administration's ability or inability to responsibly address that 800-pound gorilla. On the topic of paying for infrastructure, I was encouraged to hear from Ms. Nason at her confirmation hearing that she believes that ``all options are on the table.'' Those are her words: ``All options are on the table.'' I welcome those words. We also discussed several other policy-related concerns Ms. Nason will need to begin addressing on day one at the Federal Highway Administration. Too many pedestrians, too many bicyclists, and too many drivers put their lives at risk when they use our roadways. In 2017, 2 years ago, there were more than 37,000 fatalities on our Nation's roadways. In that same year, nearly 7,000 nonmotorized users were killed. That is unacceptable. I was encouraged that during her confirmation hearing, Ms. Nason promised that she would have a focus on safety at the Agency and work closely with NHTSA and others to improve information-sharing with States, localities, and Tribal communities. Too many Americans lack access to reliable transit or safe places to walk or to bike. In my State, we have done a lot in the last 20, 25 years. There is a lot more to do, and, frankly, we can learn from other States, and maybe one or two of them can learn from us. Meanwhile, our country's public safety networks should connect people to commerce and opportunity in every ZIP Code--not just some of them, in every ZIP Code. In too many instances, disadvantaged communities are spatially disconnected from commerce and opportunity. Lower income neighborhoods are often far from good-paying job opportunities, or safe and dependable transit options don't exist for those working outside of an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule. Our country's public transportation networks should lift up disadvantaged communities--lift them up. The Federal Highway Administration must be a strong Federal partner in that effort. Too many drivers lack access to charging stations for electric vehicles and hydrogen fueling stations for fuel cell vehicles. This is especially frustrating for those who have made investments in this technology but may not have feasible options to use those investments. That brings us to the glaring reality of climate change and its worsening impact on our infrastructure. Our vehicles and travel patterns exacerbate the impacts of climate change, and mobile sources are our Nation's largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. I want to say that again. Our vehicles and travel patterns accelerate and exacerbate the effects of climate change, and mobile sources--our cars, trucks, and vans--are our Nation's largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in this country and on the planet. Meanwhile, increasingly frequent and extreme weather events are continuing to erode our transportation networks. We see it in my State. My guess is that we see it in every other State that is represented here. Sea level rise threatens the structural integrity and longevity of our roads and bridges. Delaware is the lowest lying State in America, and seas are rising. That is not a good combination. The challenges are great, but here is the good news: so are the opportunities. The challenges are great, but so are the opportunities. Today, I am supporting the nomination of Ms. Nason because I believe the key to success at any organization--any organization I have ever been a part of--is its leadership--the Navy, the State of Delaware's Governor, and here. Right now, the Federal Highway Administration needs a top leader, and I believe that in Ms. Nason, they will have one. I hope--more than just hope, I believe she is going to prove to be a partner with Congress and work with us to address some of the many challenges I have laid out and the many challenges before us in the months and years ahead. I call on all of our colleagues--Democratic, Republican, and a couple of Independents--to rise up later today when the vote is taken and vote in favor of her nomination. I suggest the absence of a quorum. The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll. The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll. Mr. PAUL. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded. The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered. Mr. PAUL. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent for both sides to yield back all remaining time. The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered. The question is, Will the Senate advise and consent to the Nason nomination? Mrs. FISCHER. I ask for the yeas and nays. The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there a sufficient second? There appears to be a sufficient second. The clerk will call the roll. The bill clerk called the roll. Mr. THUNE. The following Senators are necessarily absent: the Senator from Kansas (Mr. Moran) and the Senator from Alaska (Mr. Sullivan). Further, if present and voting, the Senator from Kansas (Mr. Moran) would have voted ``yea.'' Mr. DURBIN. I announce that the Senator from New Jersey (Mr. Booker) and the Senator from Michigan (Ms. Stabenow) are necessarily absent. The PRESIDING OFFICER. Are there any other Senators in the Chamber desiring to vote? The result was announced--yeas 95, nays 1, as follows: [[Page S2079]] [Rollcall Vote No. 54 Ex.] YEAS--95 Alexander Baldwin Barrasso Bennet Blackburn Blumenthal Blunt Boozman Braun Brown Burr Cantwell Capito Cardin Carper Casey Cassidy Collins Coons Cornyn Cortez Masto Cotton Cramer Crapo Cruz Daines Duckworth Durbin Enzi Ernst Feinstein Fischer Gardner Gillibrand Graham Grassley Harris Hassan Hawley Heinrich Hirono Hoeven Hyde-Smith Inhofe Isakson Johnson Jones Kaine Kennedy King Klobuchar Lankford Leahy Lee Manchin Markey McConnell McSally Menendez Merkley Murkowski Murphy Murray Paul Perdue Peters Portman Reed Risch Roberts Romney Rosen Rounds Rubio Sasse Schatz Schumer Scott (FL) Scott (SC) Shaheen Shelby Sinema Smith Tester Thune Tillis Toomey Udall Van Hollen Warner Warren Whitehouse Wicker Wyden Young NAYS--1 Sanders NOT VOTING--4 Booker Moran Stabenow Sullivan The nomination was confirmed. The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, the motion to reconsider is considered made and laid upon the table, and the President will be immediately notified of the Senate's actions.
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