WASHINGTON—The House approved a $715 billion transportation and water infrastructure package, as House Democrats seek to make their imprint on the broader effort to pass a bipartisan infrastructure compromise through Congress in the coming months.
The bill, which passed 221-201, would reauthorize federal infrastructure programs and provide $343 billion for roads and bridges, $109 billion for transit systems, nearly $100 billion for rail, and nearly $170 billion for water systems. It includes several measures aimed at reducing carbon emissions in the transportation sector, including investments in electric-vehicle charging stations and electrifying public transit.
“We have to rebuild this infrastructure to deal with the threats of the 21st century and this is a tremendous opportunity,” said
Rep. Peter DeFazio
(D., Ore.), the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
All except two Republicans opposed the measure, which isn’t set to become law. GOP lawmakers took issue with the bill’s lack of changes to permitting processes and its climate-change measures, which they said were overreaching. They also criticized Democrats for not raising revenue to cover the cost of the bill.
“Everything about this bill is out of touch,”
Rep. Sam Graves
(R., Mo.), the top Republican on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said.
Passage of the legislation in the House comes as the White House and a bipartisan group of senators attempt to move a roughly $1 trillion infrastructure proposal through Congress. That bipartisan deal calls for $579 billion in infrastructure spending above baseline levels, or expected federal infrastructure spending if current programs continue. Negotiators estimated that the total cost of their package would be $973 billion over five years or $1.2 trillion over eight years.
But authorization for infrastructure programs are set to expire on Oct. 1, and Congress will need to adopt legislation reauthorizing them and setting new baseline spending levels. The House bill passed Thursday is House Democrats’ proposal for how to do so.
In the Senate, lawmakers unanimously advanced a $304 billion bill in the Senate Environment and Public Works committee focused on transportation programs, one of several infrastructure reauthorization bills the chamber is working on. Senate negotiators have said they have used that $304 billion bill as part of their assumptions in crafting the $1 trillion proposal.
Mr. DeFazio said he had pushed the Senate and the White House to include measures from his bill in the roughly $1 trillion bipartisan package.
“My message is: let’s use, substantially, our policy and bargain on the numbers. I don’t know it will ultimately get resolved,” he said.
On top of the talks on infrastructure, Democrats are simultaneously putting together a separate package focused on anti-poverty efforts. Many Democrats have said they will not vote for a bipartisan infrastructure deal if it is not accompanied by the other package, which lawmakers plan to pass through a budget process called reconciliation. Using reconciliation allows lawmakers to skirt the 60-vote threshold necessary for passing most legislation in the Senate, where Republicans are set to oppose much of Democrats’ goals for the separate package.
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Source: WSJ – US News