FIRST ON FOX: An internal memorandum circulated by lawmakers on the Senate Commerce Committee Republicans highlights how the Biden administration is tying up billions of dollars in taxpayer funds to “wake up initiatives.”
The memo, first obtained by Fox News Digital, was sent Monday night and was spearheaded by Commerce Committee Ranking Member Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who plans to introduce legislation that would prohibit the Department of Transportation (DOT) from binding the federal funding of left priorities. It specifically addresses the DOT’s management of three grant programs that serve as important vehicles for funding various types of surface transportation projects throughout the country.
“Billions upon billions of taxpayer dollars intended for infrastructure projects are being tied up in initiatives more focused on tearing down America’s infrastructure in the name of ‘equity’ and ‘climate change’ than building roads. , bridges, and highways to connect the country,” the memo said.
“Congress must not allow the Department of Transportation to push the absurd concept of ‘racist roads’ to prevent Americans from getting much-needed improvements to their highways,” it continued. “Funding announcements issued by the DOT should focus on the law as written, not priorities that have been awakened.”
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In June, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced that his agency has begun accepting applications for the National Infrastructure Project Assistance, Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA), and Rural Surface Transportation Grant programs. The three programs received a collective $5.6 billion increase, most of which supports INFRA, under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021.
Buttigieg said the grants ultimately awarded under the programs will support “transformational infrastructure projects across the country.” But the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) issued by the DOT as part of its grant-making process states that recipients must respond to equity. and climate concerns.
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“Projects that do not adequately consider equity and opportunity barriers in their planning, as determined by the Department, must do so before receiving funds for construction,” the DOT’s NOFO states.
“Projects that do not adequately consider climate change and environmental justice in their planning, as determined by the Department, must do so before receiving funds for construction,” the document added.
Both funding conditions refer to President Biden’s first day executive order titled “Advancing Racial Justice and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government.”
After Buttigieg’s announcement, Cruz wrote in July to the Government Accountability Office, asking for confirmation that NOFO is a rule and, therefore, subject to the Congressional Review Act (CRA), a law that dates back nearly three decades. allows Congress to revoke the federal. regulations. The federal watchdog responded last month, saying it was, in fact, subject to the law.
According to the memo circulated on Monday, Cruz will soon introduce a CRA resolution “challenging ‘woke’ anti-highway policy in DOT grants.” The resolution also targets other DOT policies such as framing road building as increasing “automobile dependence,” and condemning highway expansion projects that do not include electric vehicle charging stations or bike lanes. .
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“Taken, these additions, which seriously deviate from the norms of the law, will favor the states that want to expand mass transit and bicycle paths in the states that want to build roads. announced the awards, especially which is harmful,” the memo added.
“The DOT funding announcement guarantees that applicants will not receive construction funds unless they accept the administration’s extreme view of climate and equity,” it said, calling on Congress to support the upcoming resolution by Cruz who is against the “anti-highway agenda” of the Biden administration.
For years, left-wing groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and activists have argued that US cities have historically used highway infrastructure to further racial discrimination. Buttigieg seeks to reverse past racist policies that led to some infrastructure decisions.
“There is racism that is physically built into some of our highways, and that’s why the work plan is specifically committed to reconnecting some of the communities that are divided with these dollars,” Buttigieg said in an interview. in the Grio in 2021.
In June 2022, Buttigieg launched the $1 billion Reconnecting Communities program that aims to reverse infrastructure policies that divide communities and disconnect some neighborhoods from economic opportunities.
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“Transportation can connect us to jobs, services and loved ones, but we’ve also seen countless cases across the country where a piece of infrastructure cuts off a neighborhood or community because of how it’s built,” Buttigieg said at the time.
“But we cannot ignore the basic fact that some of the planners and politicians behind the projects build them directly through the heart of the living, the population, the communities – sometimes in an effort to reinforce segregation, ” he said. “Sometimes because people there have less power to resist. And sometimes as part of a direct effort to replace or eliminate Black neighborhoods.”
The DOT did not immediately respond to a request for comment.