What’s the Latest on the Federal Infrastructure Bill?
While improving the country’s highways, bridges, railways, and broadband networks has broad bipartisan support, the devil is in the details...
What’s the Latest on the Federal Infrastructure Bill?
<strong>While improving the country’s highways, bridges, railways, and broadband networks has broad bipartisan support, the devil is in the details.</strong>..
While improving the country’s highways, bridges, railways, and broadband networks has broad bipartisan support, the devil is in the details. The Biden Administration must work with Republicans to reach a consensus on how much money to spend, what programs qualify as “infrastructure,” and whether to raise taxes to pay for it.
Biden Administration’s Infrastructure Goals
When running from President, Biden called for a massive overhaul of the country’s infrastructure. His plan centered on modernizing infrastructure, increasing reliance on clean energy, while also creating jobs and using infrastructure investments to address racial disparities. At the time, Biden estimated that his clean energy infrastructure plan would cost $2 trillion over four years.
Below are several infrastructure initiatives President Biden outlined while campaigning:
- Investing in the repair of water pipelines and sewer systems, replacement of lead service pipes, upgrade of treatment plants, and integration of efficiency and water quality monitoring technologies;
- Transforming the energy sources that power the transportation sector to electricity and clean fuels, including commuter trains, school and transit buses, ferries, and passenger vehicles;
- Providing all Americans in municipalities of more than 100,000 people with quality public transportation by 2030;
- Installing 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations; and
- Expanding broadband, or wireless broadband via 5G, to every American.
Challenges to Passing an Infrastructure Bill
Republicans, along with several business industry groups, have stated that they are willing to work with the Biden Administration to pass infrastructure spending of at least $1 trillion. Areas of agreement include funds for bridges, highways, rural broadband networks, and water/sewer systems. However, including broad climate change measures or unpaid leave is likely a more uphill battle.
While Republicans and Democrats may agree that the country’s infrastructure needs upgrades, legislation to make that happen will be subject to the same political divides that impact any other bill. The biggest hurdle is whether or not to raise taxes to fund infrastructure spending. Republicans have already pushed back at the prospect of tax hikes. Business groups are lobbying for alternatives to tax increases, such as private-public partnerships. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has also proposed temporarily raising the gas tax as one way to pay for the infrastructure overhaul.
If the parties can’t reach a consensus, Democrats could seek to pass an infrastructure bill without any Republican support. The process of reconciliation allows for Democrats to pass legislation with a bare majority in the evenly divided Senate, without having to obtain the typical 60-vote supermajority required for bills. Vice President Kamala Harris’s vote would then break the tie and allow passage of the bill.
Reconciliation is intended to allow for expedited consideration of certain tax, spending, and debt-limit legislation. Reconciliation starts with the congressional budget resolution. If the budget calls for reconciliation, it tells certain committees to change spending, revenues, or deficits by specific amounts. Each committee writes a bill to achieve its target, and if more than one committee is told to act, the Budget Committee puts the bills together into one big bill.
The budget reconciliation process put bills on the fast-track. They can’t be halted by a filibuster, Senate debate time is limited, and only certain kinds of amendments can be offered. However, reconciliation is limited to certain circumstances — only policies that change spending or revenues can be included.
Now that the COVID-19 stimulus bill is done, the Biden Administration has turned its attention to infrastructure. While President Biden has not yet unveiled his plan to fund an infrastructure bill, the White House and Department of Transportation officials have begun discussions with business leaders and Republicans. While not confirmed, Memorial Day has been floated as the date when President Biden would submit his proposal to Congress. He is expected to preview the plan in April when he addresses a joint session of Congress. While there is no set deadline to pass an infrastructure package, the five-year Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act), which funds highway and transportation programs, expires September 30, 2021.
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If you have any questions or if you would like to discuss the matter further, please contact me, Teddy Eynon, or the Scarinci Hollenbeck attorney with whom you work, at 201-896-4100.
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About Author Edward "Teddy" Eynon
Edward “Teddy” Eynon is Managing Partner of Scarinci Hollenbeck’s Washington, D.C. office. Teddy regularly represents clients in numerous government-related matters, including public policy, energy and environment, budget, defense, healthcare, financial services, transportation & infrastructure, congressional investigations, and oversight issues.
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