Washington Report: Infrastructure Proposal Dominates Capitol

In a major development last week, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced the Senate Parliamentarian has issued a ruling that will allow Democrats to revisit the budget reconciliation process as a legislative path forward.

This would allow Democrats to pass the infrastructure package without any Republican support. However, securing all 50 Senate Democratic votes will be a challenge.

Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) said he thinks the corporate tax rate increase is too high – suggesting an increase from 21 to 25 percent is more reasonable. Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) also said that he expressed his concerns with the proposal to the White House.

Attention on an infrastructure package dominated conversations in Washington and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

Congressional Democrats are encouraging the White House and Democratic leaders to explore a bipartisan infrastructure approach.

In an op-ed Wednesday, Senator Manchin said there’s “no circumstance” in which he would “vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster,” and he expressed alarm at the budget reconciliation process and how it’s “being used by both parties to stifle debate around major issues.”

Similarly, Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) suggested possible areas of cooperation and compromise with Republicans on the bill, such as a smaller increase to the corporate tax rate or eliminating loopholes for large, multinational corporations.

Electric Vehicles

The Biden Administration clarified that its $174 billion proposal to boost electric vehicles (EV) would include $100 billion for new consumer rebates and $15 billion to build 500,000 new EV charging stations.

In addition, $20 billion would be allocated for electric school buses, $25 billion for zero emission transit vehicles, and $14 billion in tax incentives.

President Biden’s forthcoming budget request will outline top-line funding levels for surface transportation programs.

Budget details will serve as a guide as Congress begins to prepare surface transportation reauthorization legislation, which expires September 30, 2021.

Previous reports indicated the budget request would assume level funding from the 2015 surface transportation reauthorization, which the Administration corrected Wednesday to say the Administration will seek historic funding levels for these programs.

The President’s proposal has not received overwhelming Congressional support and the timeline for passage remains uncertain.

Transportation Reauthorization

House Transportation and Infrastructure Chair Peter DeFazio (D-OR) announced earlier this week that he was looking to pass a surface transportation reauthorization bill out of Committee by mid-late May.

As a reminder, this bill is separate from President Biden’s American Jobs Plan and deals with funding for federal highway and public transportation programs.

While there is a strong chance that surface transportation reauthorization and an infrastructure package will be combined as the legislation moves through Congress, as of now they are separate packages.

Separately, Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) have introduced legislation to create a renewable fuel infrastructure grant program to help fuel retailers sell higher blends of ethanol.

The legislation would streamline existing rules that generally prevent retail fuel stations from providing higher blends.

Senator Klobuchar said this legislation would expand the market for biofuels by authorizing $500 million over five years for infrastructure grants for fuel retailers.

EMA is working closely with Senators on both sides of the aisle to advance similar efforts, specifically small business protection under the Alternative Energy Grant program.

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