January 18, 2017
Chairman Pete Sessions Ranking Member Louise Slaughter
Committee on Rules Committee on Rules
U.S. Congress U.S. Congress
The Capitol H-312 1116 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515 Washington, DC 20515
Re: Hearing on “Effective Oversight and the Power of the Purse”
Dear Chairman Sessions and Ranking Member Slaughter:
The Construction Employers of America (CEA), a joint initiative coordinating action on labor, workforce, and construction issues facing construction industry, appreciates the Committee on Rules holding the hearing, “Effective Oversight and the Power of the Purse.”
CEA works to strengthen the construction industry and provide opportunities for top-quality construction workers to learn and maintain the skills they need to deliver highly-productive, quality workmanship that provides the best value to project owners while earning high-value compensation and benefits for themselves, their families, and their communities. As part of the CEA’s mission, we strongly support efforts to increase direct investment in all forms of domestic infrastructure. Construction firms are in a unique position to understand the real-world effects of infrastructure investments for businesses, their employees, and the families that depend on the blue-collar jobs that built America’s middle class.
Unfortunately, for too long Federal policy makers have failed to address the need to significantly increase infrastructure investment and provide the revenues necessary to support this investment. With the country currently in need of over $4 trillion in infrastructure investment, now is a critical time to work towards passing a major infrastructure package.
If, as part of an infrastructure package, Congress decides to provide discretionary funding targeted towards infrastructure priorities, the transparent and accountable use of “congressional directed investments” (i.e. earmarks) is appropriate and necessary to ensure that the infrastructure needs of all regions and congressional districts are considered in the allocation of available funding. Currently, these project-level funding decisions for discretionary surface transportation investments are left to the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT). We believe that providing all project review and selection authority to Federal agencies undermines representative government and takes away from the elected representatives the ability to respond to vital infrastructure needs in the congressional districts they represent.
While we do not object to infrastructure legislation authorizing U.S. DOT to award a portion of funds towards major national and regionally significant projects, we believe that it is equally important for congress to provide Members an opportunity to target investments towards critical infrastructure projects in their districts. Regardless of who allocates the funds, decisions must be made in a transparent manner, with public disclosure and open vetting prior to selection. Under the appropriate circumstances and selection criteria, congressional directed investments can play a critical role in furthering representative government and ensuring that members have voices in setting Federal investment priorities resulting from the legislation they are called to pass.
We are happy to discuss Congress’s constitutional prerogative for funding federal projects with you or your staff at your convenience. Should you have any questions, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-637-6820.
Construction Employers of America
CC: Members of the Committee on Rules