An internal memorandum circulated among lawmakers by Senate Commerce Committee Republicans highlights how the Biden administration is tying billions of dollars in taxpayer funds to “woke initiatives.”
The memo, which was sent on Monday night, was spearheaded by Ted Cruz, R. Texas, Ranking Member of the Commerce Committee. Cruz plans to introduce legislation to prohibit the Department of Transportation from tying federal funding to left-wing agendas. The memo focuses on DOT’s administration of three grant programs, which are used to fund a variety of surface transportation projects across the country.
The memo says: “Billions and billions of dollars of taxpayer money meant for infrastructure are tied to woke initiatives which are more focused on destroying America’s infrastructure under the pretext of ‘equity,’ and a ‘climate-change’ rather than building roads and bridges and highways that connect the country.”
The report continued, “Congress cannot allow the Department of Transportation (DOT) to use the absurd concept of racist roads to stop Americans from receiving much-needed highway improvements,” it said. The funding notices from DOT should be based on the law, as it is written, and not woke priorities.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg made an announcement in June that his agency was now accepting applications for its Rural Surface Transportation Grant, Infrastructure for Rebuilding America, and National Infrastructure Project Assistance programs. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act 2021 provided a boost of $5.6 billion to the three programs, with most of it going towards INFRA.
Buttigieg stated that the grants ultimately awarded under these programs will support “transformational projects in infrastructure across the country.” The DOT’s Notice of Funding Opportunities (NOFO), which it issued as part of its grant-awarding procedure, states that recipients must address climate and equity concerns.
The NOFO of the DOT states that “Projects which have not adequately considered equity and barriers in their planning as determined by the Department will be required to comply before receiving funding for construction.”
The document states that “projects which have not adequately considered climate change or environmental justice in their plans, as determined by the Department, will need to do so before they receive funds for construction.”
The two funding conditions are based on President Biden’s executive order of day one, titled “Advancing Race Equity and Support to Underserved Community Through the Federal Government”.
Cruz, in response to Buttigieg’s announcement, wrote to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in July, asking for confirmation that the NOFO was a rule, and therefore subject to the Congressional Review Act. CRA is a law that dates back almost 30 years, allowing Congress to revoke regulations. Last month, the federal watchdog confirmed that it is indeed subject to law.
The memo that circulated on Monday stated that Cruz would soon introduce a CRA Resolution “challenging woke anti-highway policies in DOT Grants.” The resolution will also target other DOT policies, such as framing the construction of roads as increasing “automobile dependency” and condemning highway extension projects that do not include electric vehicle charging stations or bike lanes.
The memo states that “taken together, the additions which are a severe deviation from the criteria of law will favor states who want to expand mass transit, bike paths, over states who want to build roads.” “The added requirements for grant agreements are especially harmful,” says the memo.
The document states that “the DOT funding notification guarantees that applicants won’t get construction funds unless they embrace the administration’s extreme views on equity and climate,” calling on Congress to support Cruz’s forthcoming resolution opposing the Biden administration’s “anti-highway agenda”.
Since years, activists and left-wing organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union have claimed that U.S. cities used highway infrastructure historically to promote racist discrimination. Buttigieg aims to reverse racist policies from the past that led to certain decisions in infrastructure.
Buttigieg stated in a 2021 interview with TheGrio that there was racism built into our highways.
Buttigieg will launch the Reconnecting Communities Program in June 2022. This $1 billion program aims to revert infrastructure policies that divide communities and isolate certain neighborhoods from economic opportunity.
Buttigieg stated at the time that “transportation can connect us with jobs, services, and our loved ones. But we’ve seen countless instances around the country when a piece or infrastructure cut off a neighborhood, or a whole community, because of the way it was constructed.”
He said: “But we cannot ignore the fact that some planners and politicians who backed these projects built them right through the middle of vibrant, populated communities – sometimes to reinforce segregation.” Sometimes because people had less power to fight back. Sometimes as a part of an effort to eliminate or replace Black neighborhoods.
The DOT did not immediately respond to a comment request.