Key House Committee Advances Infrastructure Legislation

By Matt Heller
Sep 15 2021 |
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After a marathon 15-hour session, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approves bill to invest $60 billion in infrastructure.

The House was back in session Tuesday, as the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee met to advance its part of President Biden’s Build Back Better proposal. And after a 15-hour markup, the panel voted 37-29 to move the legislation forward.

The specific legislation passed by the committee aims to build off of the Senate-passed bipartisan infrastructure bill and constitutes the “soft infrastructure” portion of Biden’s Build Back Better Agenda. It includes items like $10 billion to support access to affordable housing; $4 billion to reduce carbon pollution in surface transportation infrastructure; and $9.5 billion to provide investments in economically distressed communities.

“From tackling climate change, to addressing racial and environmental injustices, to building back better after the COVID-19 pandemic, our nation faces big challenges,” said Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.). “By advancing this legislation, we’re taking a key step forward in addressing those challenges.”

The committee advanced several other infrastructure measures earlier this year, including the INVEST in America Act, which allocates $547 billion for surface transportation infrastructure like roads, bridges, and transit systems.

It’s a busy week in the House, which is working to get infrastructure investment done. While the $1.2 trillion bipartisan bill passed by the Senate enjoyed support from both parties, Democrats also are aiming to advance a $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package, which will allow Congressional Democrats to pass their priorities in one of the few procedural vessels that will alleviate the threat of a filibuster. However, with thin margins in both chambers of Congress and little chance of House Republicans agreeing to anything, Democrats must corral near-unanimous support for their bill within their party, making it a challenge for individual members to get their priorities passed.

On top of it all, the committees are rushing to finish their portions of the budget in the House by Wednesday, with the goal of passing the final budget bill through the House by the end of September. It’s made for long nights of work for the Congressmembers and their staffs, but for members like DeFazio, it was also a motivating factor.

“The sunrise was colorful, and it was colorful because of the smoke in the upper atmosphere from the western United States,” he said, segwaying into the provisions in the bill to invest in infrastructure that will be resilient against climate change and ensure that the US is a leader in the production of electric vehicles, solar panels, offshore wind, and other mechanisms to leading the renewable energy industry.

“The investments included also make sure that we are funding climate resilient infrastructure and reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions,” added Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.). “This legislation will jumpstart our current efforts to reduce the current backlog of infrastructure needs throughout our country, and bring our roads and bridges to a state of good repair.”

These climate provisions will be important, as they were largely absent from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill and represent an opportunity for the United States to finally compete against countries like China in industries where investment is badly needed. For American workers, that means reshoring jobs, and leading the development of nascent industries, guaranteeing good-paying manufacturing jobs for the next generation of American workers.

But some members of Congress also urged caution, recognizing that we cannot make investments in green energy without also ensuring that we do not buy products from countries like China, and risk American taxpayer dollars from subsidizing state-owned enterprises who have been credibly accused of using forced labor in their facilities.

“The United States can and should be a leader in the design and manufacture of electric vehicles,” said Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-N.J.). “However, because of decades of globalism and economic mismanagement have resulted in weakened supply chains…that leaves the United States vulnerable to malicious actors like the Chinese Communist Party.”

Negotiations on the budget will continue through September and likely October as the rest of the committees finish their portions and send it off to the House and Senate floors. After that, a fiscal cliff is looming — so stay tuned to this blog for all the updates you’ll need about Capitol Hill as we continue to work to ensure that these bills keep American workers at their center.