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During debate of H.R. 5856, the Department of Defense Appropriations Act for 2013, Congressman Brian Higgins took to the House Floor to protest funding allocations for the war in Afghanistan.
“The bill being considered on the House Floor today proposes $88.5 billion to fund the war in Afghanistan,” said Congressman Higgins. “The transportation bill Congress just passed gives just $52 billion per year to rebuilding American infrastructure. This is unacceptable.”
Higgins has repeatedly advocated for a large-scale investment in American infrastructure. Earlier this year, he introduced H.R. 4352, the Nation Building Here at Home Act, which calls for a $1.2 trillion investment in U.S. infrastructure over the next 5 years and would have the potential to create 27 million jobs, add $400 billion to the economy, and drop the unemployment rate to 5.6%.
The text of Congressman Higgins’s speech is below:
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
The appropriations process and the budget is not only a spending plan about future priorities it’s also a statement of our values.
The United States in 2001 went in to Afghanistan and took out the Taliban government. We’ve also taken out Osama bin Laden.
The United States is proposing to spend $88.5 billion again this year in Afghanistan. We’re going into our 11th year of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. Eleven years ago Afghanistan was among the poorest and most corrupt countries on the face of the Earth. Today it is still among the most corrupt and poorest countries on the face of the Earth. We’ve lost 2,000 soldiers, 16,000 wounded.
Last week the U.S. government decided to spend $105 billion rebuilding the infrastructure of this country – less than $53 billion in each of the next 2 years for a nation of over 300 million people. You just spent $78 billion rebuilding the roads and bridges of Afghanistan, a nation of 30 million people. It’s time that we do nation building right here at home.
Of the 34 provinces in Afghanistan the spiritual and financial home of the Taliban is in Kandahar and Helmand Province because that is disproportionately where the poppy fields are that finances the Taliban.
The literacy rate for women in Kandahar Province is 1%. The literacy rate for men is about 15%. How do you build up an Afghan police force, an Afghan national army, with people who are illiterate? You have to build schools. You have to build roads to get them to those schools and electricity to power those schools. That, Mr. Speaker, is nation building. In Afghanistan. We need to do nation building right here at home.
This $88.5 billion should be redirected immediately to rebuild the roads and bridges of this nation. In America, according to Transportation for America we have 69,000 structurally deficient bridges, in NYS alone we have over 2000 structurally deficient bridges, iIn my home community of Western New York we have 99 structurally deficient bridges and no plan to address that. Every second of every day 7 cars drive on a bridge that is structurally deficient.
We need to get our priorities in order. We need to reaffirm our values. We need to have a vision for rebuilding America and the best way to do that is start with this appropriation and reprogramming it right back here at home for nation building here in America.