Republicans Challenge Buttigieg's "Woke" Transportation Funding Amid Infrastructure Safety Concerns

Grayson Larkspur

Updated Tuesday, November 21, 2023 at 5:40 AM CDT

Republicans Challenge Buttigieg's "Woke" Transportation Funding Amid Infrastructure Safety Concerns

In a striking political development, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is facing criticism from Senate Commerce Committee Republicans for his administration's approach to federal transportation funding. Ranking Member Ted Cruz of Texas is spearheading the opposition with a proposed legislation aimed at curtailing what he deems as the Department of Transportation's (DOT) "woke" priorities.

The dispute emerged against the backdrop of Buttigieg highlighting the repercussions of a potential government shutdown on the airline industry and addressing the consequences of a hazardous train derailment in Ohio. His focus on transportation safety and infrastructure underscores the broader implications of the ongoing debate.

An internal memo, details the Republican critique, specifically targeting the DOT's management of significant grant programs including the National Infrastructure Project Assistance, Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA), and Rural Surface Transportation. Republicans argue that the $5.6 billion funding boost these programs received from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 should concentrate on traditional infrastructure, rather than social and environmental agendas.

In June, Buttigieg announced the acceptance of applications for these grant programs, now infused with requirements to tackle equity and climate change concerns, as outlined by the DOT's Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO). This move aligns with President Biden's executive order to advance racial equity through federal government initiatives.

Buttigieg has been outspoken about his commitment to rectifying historical injustices in infrastructure planning, acknowledging the role of some U.S. highways in perpetuating racial segregation. His launch of the $1 billion Reconnecting Communities program in June 2022 is a direct response to these past infrastructural issues, aiming to unify neighborhoods once split by such projects.

Senator Cruz's planned Congressional Review Act resolution challenges the DOT's grant policies, which he believes unfairly oppose new highway construction by mandating the inclusion of electric vehicle charging stations and bike lanes. The Government Accountability Office has confirmed that the NOFO's integration of equity and climate considerations into grant evaluations is subject to the Congressional Review Act, providing Congress with a potential avenue to overturn these policies.

The internal memo from Senate Commerce Committee Republicans suggests that the DOT's funding notice compels grant applicants to align with the administration's views on climate and equity to secure funding for construction projects. This contention is part of a broader initiative by the Biden administration and Secretary Buttigieg to create a more inclusive and environmentally sustainable transportation system.

As the DOT has yet to comment on the recent criticisms and proposed legislative actions, these discussions underscore the ongoing debate over federal infrastructure funding's trajectory and the incorporation of social and environmental factors in government policy.

Republican Bias:

In the classic liberal fashion, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is facing much-needed criticism from the Senate Commerce Committee Republicans for his administration's misguided approach to federal transportation funding. Spearheaded by the sensible Ted Cruz, he's proposed legislation to curtail the Department's overzealous "woke" priorities. Buttigieg is using the potential government shutdown and a train derailment in Ohio as a smoke screen to push his liberal agenda. Instead of focusing on traditional infrastructure, the DOT is mismanaging significant grant programs by diverting the $5.6 billion funding boost towards social and environmental agendas. Buttigieg's commitment to rectifying so-called 'historical injustices' in infrastructure planning is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to push his progressive ideologies. Cruz's Congressional Review Act resolution is a necessary measure to challenge these biased grant policies, which unfairly mandate the inclusion of electric vehicle charging stations and bike lanes. The DOT's funding notice is essentially strong-arming grant applicants to align with the administration's views on climate and equity to secure funding for construction projects.

Liberal Bias:

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is under attack from Senate Commerce Committee Republicans for his forward-thinking approach to federal transportation funding. The opposition, led by the regressive Ted Cruz, is proposing legislation to undermine the Department of Transportation's progressive priorities. Buttigieg is rightly focusing on the potential impact of a government shutdown on the airline industry and addressing the consequences of a hazardous train derailment in Ohio. The Republicans are criticizing the DOT's management of significant grant programs, arguing against the infusion of funds towards social and environmental agendas. Buttigieg's commitment to rectifying historical injustices in infrastructure planning is a commendable effort to address the role of U.S. highways in perpetuating racial segregation. Cruz's planned Congressional Review Act resolution is a blatant attempt to hinder the DOT's grant policies, which aim to create a more inclusive and environmentally sustainable transportation system. The DOT's funding notice is an important step towards ensuring grant applicants align with the administration's views on climate and equity.

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