Last month we talked in this column about the brouhaha between the President and the Democratic leadership as they were meeting to try to hammer out the details of the nearly-famous “$2 TRILLION infrastructure plan.”
There was hand wringing about the dramatic turn of events, but when the dust settled, our Washington-based colleagues in the Clean Water Construction Coalition are reporting that things are still moving forward. Here’s some of what they had to say:
“Regarding the Administration, via the Department of Transportation which has the lead on the issue, we were told that the President still wants to do Infrastructure—as he said, ‘it’s what I do’—and that DOT has not been told to stand down regarding its ongoing infrastructure discussions with the Congress.
“Also, regarding the President’s comment that he would not work with the Congress on Infrastructure, or for that matter on any major policy issue, an agreement was reached recently between the White House and the Congress on a disaster relief appropriations bill and discussions are ongoing on raising the debt limit.
“Lastly, recent press reports now say that the President will work with the Congress on major policy issues. Regarding the Senate, Senator Schumer has called on his fellow senators, including Republicans, to move forward on an infrastructure bill. Per his staff, he wants a large, well-funded, and clean bill.”
Funding for the existing highway bill (FAST Act) is moving forward in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which is still on target for the markup of a highway bill before August. It could be the cornerstone of a Senate mega-infrastructure bill.
House Transportation and Infrastructure Chair Peter DeFazio is now talking Winter for having a replacement high- waybill in conference with the Senate. That bill was always thought to be the foundation along with DeFazio’s water and ports bills of a House mega-infrastructure bill.
Under the heading of “pay-fors” (the new Washington phrase for raising taxes), Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D- Ore), a Ways and Means Committee member, introduced H.R. 2864 that would raise the gas tax by five cents per year and then “replace it with something not yet specified,” according to our CWCC representatives. Under the bill, the gas tax would rise to 23.3 cents per gallon in 2020 until reaching 43.3 cents per gallon after 2023 and indexed to inflation.
So, as per usual, much of what we hear in the media about Capitol going-ons is “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing” while the real work is going on.
By Brendan Slagle, ECA President Email: [email protected]