House Passes $1.5 Trillion Infrastructure Investment Package

By Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch
Jul 02 2020 |
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The Moving Forward Act includes language to help strengthen American manufacturing.

The House on Wednesday afternoon passed a $1.5 trillion investment package that directs much of its spending toward rebuilding America’s crumbling infrastructure.

This work is long overdue, and the massive bill aims to take on everything from roads and bridges to the electric grid and broadband to school construction and water systems. Given that the American Society of Civil Engineers gives U.S. infrastructure a D+ grade – and the fact that tens of millions of Americans are out of work and the country is facing a once-in-a-generation economic crisis – investing in these types of projects will quite literally lay the groundwork for our recovery.

We followed the INVEST in America Act closely as it was marked up in committee, reporting on the many positive amendments that were added to the measure during that process. But when the INVEST in America Act hit the House floor, it was combined with other infrastructure measures, ultimately becoming the Moving Forward Act.

And we have good news!

The Moving Forward Act includes several additional amendments that will benefit American workers and manufacturers, including language to strengthen Buy America provisions and stop China’s regime from taking advantage of U.S. infrastructure investments to further its own geopolitical ambitions. We’ve documented some of the highlights below.

Expand Buy America to Community Development Block Grant Program

Established under former President Gerald Ford, the Community Development Block Grant Program provides annual grants to cities, counties, and states to develop and improve urban communities. Funds are typically used to provide housing for low-to-moderate income people and build infrastructure designed to expand economic opportunities for those living in these areas. An amendment introduced by Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) would expand Buy America into the program. Although there’s an exemption for housing, Buy America would apply to to iron, steel, construction materials and other manufactured products used to build roads, sewers and other infrastructure, ensuring that taxpayer funds support local job creation and provide an economic boost to local communities.

No Infrastructure Funds for China’s SOEs

Republicans criticized the Moving Forward Act as overly partisan; the bill passed largely along party lines. But Republican Members did manage to get language into the bill at the 11th hour via a motion to recommit — and even got 30 Democrats to vote in favor of it. Introduced by Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.), the measure would block funds in the infrastructure package from being used on contracts with Chinese state-owned companies, enterprises and entities responsible for building forced labor camps targeting China’s Uighur population. This supplements multiple provisions included in the legislation restricting access for state-owned companies.

Closing the TIVSA Bus Grant Loophole

Congress passed legislation in 2019 called the Transportation Infrastructure Vehicle Security Act (TIVSA), which bans Chinese state-owned, controlled or subsidized companies from building U.S. rail cars or buses. AAM strongly supported this legislation, which addressed major economic and national security concerns that arise from having companies linked to China’s regime build U.S. transit. But a loophole in TIVSA would allow local transit agencies to use accounting schemes to get around the ban. This amendment, put forth by Crawford, would close that loophole by requiring local agencies to forfeit access to the federally funded Grants for Buses and Bus Facilities program if they opt to purchase buses from a Chinese SOE.

Expand Buy America for Rail

An amendment put forth by Rep. Joe Morelle (D-N.Y.) ensures Buy America applies to the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing Program, which offers long-term, low-cost loans to railroad operators, including passenger rail and Amtrak. Under the amendment, newly built rail cars built with this funding would need to abide by Buy America provisions.

Rebuild America’s Schools

The Moving Forward Act also includes language originally put forth in the Rebuild America’s School Act, a bill put forth by Reps. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) and Donald Norcross (D-N.J.) that allocates $100 billion in funding to address infrastructure needs at public schools across the country. AAM endorsed this legislation, which is desperately needed considering more than half of school districts need to replace or conduct major repair of school facilities. And further boosting its positive impacts, it includes Buy America provisions that ensure the iron and steel used to rebuild facilities will be made here in the U.S., supporting good manufacturing jobs.

…And Legislation That Didn’t Make It Into the Bill

We were disappointed to see that bipartisan language put forth by Reps. John Garamendi (D-Calif.), Sean Maloney (D-N.Y.), Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) and Rob Wittman (R-Va.) designed to boost America’s languishing shipbuilding industry didn’t make it into the final version of the Moving Forward Act. This legislation, titled the Energizing American Shipbuilding Act, would require specified percentages of liquefied natural gas exports to be transported on vessels built or retrofitted in the U.S. and documented under its laws. Given that only one-third of 1 percent of all global shipbuilding takes place in the United States, this legislation surely would have provided much needed support to a critical industry.

As for the future of the Moving Forward Act, well… as we noted earlier, Republicans complained the House measure is too partisan. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) isn’t exactly enthusiastic about it, either. The White House has threatened a veto. But it also is worth noting that at least some of the bill may move forward, as surface transportation authorization expires on Sept. 30. Congress has punted on meeting deadlines in the past, but with record unemployment and crumbling infrastructure, we hope our elected leaders will come together and pass a final infrastructure package to put millions of Americans back to work.