Legislation

June 29, 2021 - Interim Update

Washington Update

prepared by WSP USA

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The past few days have been a roller coaster ride for potential passage of a broad infrastructure bill.  

Late last week, a bipartisan group of senators stood alongside President Joe Biden at the White House and announced that they had reached an approximately $1 trillion infrastructure compromise framework after weeks of negotiations. Less than 24 hours later, Republican members of the bipartisan group began expressing serious concerns over President Biden's pledge to only sign the bipartisan infrastructure bill if it arrives at his desk alongside a larger, multi-trillion dollar package tackling climate change, prescription drugs, Medicare expansion and more of the Democratic Party's progressive priorities that would be passed using the controversial budget reconciliation process. The resulting uproar threatened to blow up the deal. However, over the weekend, President Biden announced that he would, in fact, sign an infrastructure-only bill. 

As previously reported, the bi-partisan, broad infrastructure proposal currently consists solely of a two-page framework that still must be turned into legislative language and passed by both houses of Congress. 

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework would provide $1.2 trillion over eight years, of which $579 billion would be new spending above baseline levels. The Framework includes funding for transportation programs as well as water and power infrastructure, broadband, environmental remediation and resilience. A fact sheet released by the White House can be found here. According to the fact sheet, the Framework would be financed through "a combination of closing the tax gap, redirecting unspent emergency relief funds, targeted corporate user fees, and the macroeconomic impact of infrastructure investment."

In the meantime, the House and Senate efforts to pass a five-year FAST Act surface transportation reauthorization bill continue to progress and the full House plans to debate and hopefully pass its INVEST bill (HR 3684) later this week. The House Rules Committee met yesterday continuing into today to sort through the over 230 amendments that were submitted. Most amendments are not expected to be ruled in order for floor consideration. Other, non-controversial amendments will likely be packaged into en-bloc amendments blessed by House T&I Committee leaders. The bill is expected to pass without the traditional tax title, leaving the pay-fors uncertain, other than a massive $148 billion transfer from the general fund to the Highway Trust Fund. This has opened the bill up to more criticism from Republicans, who have already mostly opposed the bill over its scope and contents. Despite Republican objections, the bill is likely to pass given the Democrats' slim majority in the House.

Senate committees have passed two of the three key components of their companion surface transportation bill (highways and rail). The Banking Committee still needs to produce a transit bill before the various pieces can be merged and voted on by the full Senate.  The House and Senate surface transportation bills will then be reconciled into a final bill and sent to the President for a signature. Although, presumably, at some point, these surface bills will converge with the broader, bi-partisan infrastructure bill. 

 

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