House Committee Advances Critical Infrastructure Bills

By Matt Heller
Jun 11 2021 |
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The two bills are key steps towards massive investment in American infrastructure and revitalizing American manufacturing.

On Wednesday, June 9, and into the early hours of June 10, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee considered and passed two bills with major implications for American manufacturing: the INVEST in America Act and the Water Quality Protection and Job Creation Act of 2021. Together, the bills will invest significant resources into rebuilding and modernizing America’s crumbling infrastructure with strong Buy America provisions to support domestic manufacturing.

The inclusion of robust domestic preferences will ensure these investments translate into both construction jobs and more competitive and resilient infrastructure. It will also support new manufacturing jobs by giving American workers the first shot at supplying the materials and manufactured goods needed to rebuild our roads, bridges, rail, water, and transit systems. Both bills advanced out of committee following a long amendment process.

“We have here before us a tremendous opportunity for bringing back manufacturing to the United States of America,” Committee Chairman and the INVEST in America Act sponsor Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) remarked at the beginning of its markup. “We’re gonna make the vehicles, the materials here. We’re gonna have the jobs here, they can’t be exported. We’re gonna have worker retraining programs to bring people along who’ve been left behind. We can do all this by building out a visionary transportation plan.”

“We commend the leadership of Chairman Peter DeFazio and the members of the committee for their work,” Alliance for American Manufacturing President Scott Paul said in a statement. “A robust new investment and vision for rebuilding our nation’s roads, bridges and transit systems is desperately needed, especially as our nation looks to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. We also applaud the committee’s leadership for including strengthened Buy America requirements in the bill, which will maximize the job impacts of new infrastructure investments.”

As Del. Eleanor Holmes-Norton (D-DC) noted:

“All of this investment will prioritize the creation of high-quality jobs for American workers [through] Buy American provisions that incentivize our own domestic production here in the United States.”

So here’s what these bills do: The INVEST in America Act of 2021 calls for $547 billion to be spent on surface transportation, such as roads, bridges and transit systems. This is a 54% increase over previous surface transportation spending — an additional $343 billion. This is a key down payment on rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure and closing the investment gap, which the American Society of Civil Engineers estimates at $2.59 trillion over ten years.

One key amendment, offered by Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX), would close a major loophole where transit authorities use accounting gimmicks to evade Buy America provisions. Last year AAM joined labor, industry and environmental groups to criticize the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority for exploiting this loophole despite accepting hundreds of millions of dollars in federal support (we explained here and here). This decision was a missed opportunity to put taxpayer dollars to work creating and supporting jobs in factories across the country at a time when we are working to recover from the COVID-19 economic fallout. The bipartisan passage of this amendment was a critical step toward putting a stop to this practice and supporting workers throughout the rolling stock supply chain. The Water Quality Protection and Job Creation Act of 2021, meanwhile, invests over $50 billion in public clean water and wastewater infrastructure, and includes programs that target underserved communities in both rural and urban areas.

These two bills now move to the full House. A long journey lies ahead before a comprehensive infrastructure package is law, but the committee’s approval marks a key step towards these critical investments in our nation’s future.

You know we’ll be following the discussions, so stay tuned to this blog for more to come on these critical infrastructure bills.