There is finally activity in Congress on the long-promised increase in federal money for roads, bridges, railroads and other infrastructure projects. Whoopee!

The big driver for that renewed interest came when departing House Transportation and Infrastructure Chair Bill Shuster’s released his draft infrastructure plan.

While ECA is concentrating its legislative activities on local issues, we still track what’s going on in D.C. because that’s where the money is. As members of the Clean Water Construction Coalition (CWCC), we receive regular reports from the group’s legislative advocate.

Sante Esposito’s September Insights:

Secretary Elaine Chao continues as the lead for the Trump Administration and her staff have been working with the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) and Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) committee staffs.

Also, OMB reached out to the Senate Committee on Finance and the House Ways & Means Committee. OMB Director Mick Mulvaney met with the bipartisan leadership of both committees, and there have been staff meetings. No details are available, but insiders say that the meetings have been “productive,” and they are continuing discussions.

Even the Democrats on the House T&I Committee commended Chair Shuster for putting a plan out. Beyond that, there are disagreements regarding substance. As usual, committee Democrats “feel his plan does not go far enough or provide enough funding” and are reportedly drafting their proposal. It is unclear if they’ll release this separately or hold it in their back pockets. The discussion draft released by Shuster is essentially a highway bill. It has a little – but not much – on the water side, including WIFIA reauthorization, watershed pilot projects, and small community technical assistance.

It is also weak on other transportation modes besides highway. However, even Shuster notes that this is only a proposal intended to form the basis for dialogue. In general, the Senate is not inclined to do much on infrastructure unless and until they see something serious in the House.

This Congress (115th) has two very small windows in which to enact any legislation–from mid-September to mid-October, then recesses, not to return until after the November 6th midterm elections. This leaves a little time after elections and bill action at that time often depends on what the new Congress (116th) looks like regarding party power shifts in either the House or the Senate.

By Wes May ECA Executive Director Email: [email protected]