House T&I Committee Advances Highway Bill
This week, President Biden ended bipartisan infrastructure negotiations with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) after both sides remained hundreds of billions of dollars apart and could not agree on pay-fors.
Now, infrastructure discussions are being led by a group of ten bipartisan Senators, who late Thursday announced a tentative infrastructure agreement. Although the plan has not been unveiled, the proposal would not raise taxes and would fund infrastructure at $1.2 trillion over eight years.
Earlier this week, Senator Romney stated the Senators were considering indexing the gas tax as a potential offset. The White House stated it will work with the Senators in the days ahead to flush out details on policy and pay-fors.
Some Democratic Senators have argued that the party should pursue reconciliation to pass a larger package without Republican votes. However, it is not certain Democrats would be able to do this, as several Senators, most notably Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), still remain opposed to reconciliation. Democrats are also conflicted over climate provisions.
This week, White House Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy suggested that the White House would accept an infrastructure package without significant climate provisions, prompting frustration from progressive House and Senate Democrats. Former Vice President Al Gore spoke with President Biden this week, urging him to not backtrack on his climate commitments.
Meanwhile, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee passed a $547 billion package early Thursday aimed at fixing the nation’s roads and transit systems. In a marathon 19-hour meeting that began on Wednesday, the Committee considered more than 200 amendments to the transportation package.
Democrats said the bill would lay the foundations for President Biden’s proposed $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan. The bill includes $343 billion for road and bridge construction, as well as highway safety measures, an increase of more than 50 percent over the last transportation bill Congress passed in 2015.
The bill seeks to ensure that states maintain existing highway infrastructure before adding new lanes and would create programs aimed at reducing carbon emissions from driving.
Click here to read provisions of the bill which would have a direct impact on small business energy marketers. Please keep in mind that most of these issues will likely not survive when the House negotiates with the Senate.
The bill also includes $5.67 billion in “Member Designated Projects,” also known as earmarks. Democrats submitted roughly 70 percent of the chosen projects, with Republicans submitting the remainder.
While drafting of surface transportation legislation is traditionally a bipartisan process, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO) released a statement after the bill’s introduction, noting, “despite a narrower margin of power and the President’s call for bipartisanship, the Majority never seriously considered incorporating Republican priorities and reaching a compromise.”
Throughout the markup, Republicans argued that the bill limits state flexibility in decision-making, wastes taxpayer money on projects not related to infrastructure, and fails to streamline project delays. Only two Members, Rep. Jennifer González-Colón (R-PR) and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), crossed party lines to vote in favor of the bill.
The INVEST in America Act represents the House’s first step on surface transportation. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) is planning to hold a vote on the legislation the week of June 28, and Chairman DeFazio stated that the House and Senate will possibly conference at the end of the summer. Congress must pass a new surface transportation bill, or another extension, before the FAST Act expires on September 30, 2021.
There is no requirement or legislative deadline for infrastructure legislation. It is possible that surface transportation reauthorization and infrastructure legislation will be combined.