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Infrastructure Negotiations Shift to Bipartisan Congressional Groups; House, Senate Committees Advance Surface Transportation Bills

  • June 11, 2021

Capitol Hill trees clouds in the evening

Months of negotiations on bipartisan infrastructure legislation between President Biden and Republicans led by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) collapsed this week – and talks have shifted to alternative approaches from bipartisan groups of congressional policymakers. Meanwhile, House and Senate committees are moving forward on spending bills to meet the nation’s surface transportation needs before current funding expires on Sept. 30. (White House statement, June 8 and CQ, June 10) 

Alternative Paths 

  • President Biden recently reduced his original infrastructure package proposal from $2.3 trillion to $1.7 trillion – and requested at least $1 trillion in new spending from Republicans. The Senate GOP group counteroffered with nearly $1 trillion, which included only $330 billion in new spending and the rest from repurposed COVID-19 relief funding signed into law earlier this year. Biden cancelled the talks after the gap over the package’s scope and funding could not be bridged. (The Hill and AP, June 8)

  • Yesterday, a bipartisan group of 10 senators said they would propose a plan focused on “core, physical infrastructure” infrastructure that would cost $974 billion over five years, or $1.2 trillion over eight years, including about $579 billion in new spending. (CQ and New York Times and Washington Post, June 10)

  • According to Axios, “The group proposes paying for it through unspent coronavirus relief aid, public-private partnerships, indexing the gas tax to account for inflation and allowing states to borrow necessary money through a revolving loan fund.”

  • A joint statement released by the senators said, “[We] reached a bipartisan agreement on a realistic, compromise framework to modernize our nation’s infrastructure and energy technologies. This investment would be fully paid for and not include tax increases.” (Joint statement, June 10)

  • In the House, the Problem Solvers Caucus, which has 29 Democrats and 29 Republicans, on June 9 released a $1.25 trillion infrastructure spending framework, including $761.8 billion in new spending over eight years – yet did not include any details about how to pay for the proposal. (News release, Building Bridges Infrastructure  Framework and section-by-section summary)

  • The co-chairs of the House caucus – Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) – are also in contact with a key group of bipartisan group of senators, including Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Rob Portman (R-OH) and Joe Manchin, (D-WV) about developing a bipartisan, bicameral infrastructure package. (CQ, June 9)

  • White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki this week said, “[President Biden] feels it’s encouraging to see multiple proposals put out there, both from Republicans in the House and the Problem Solvers Caucus, as well as a bipartisan group that’s working on a proposal. Both will have increased numbers over what we’ve seen and been negotiating to date. Those are all positive steps.” (White House Press Gaggle, June 9)

Surface Transportation Legislation 

road construction and workers
  • Yesterday, the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee advanced a five-year, $547 billion surface transportation bill by a vote of 38-26 that included two supporting Republican votes. (Section-by-section summary of the INVEST in America Act)

  • Although the House Ways and Means Committee needs to address how to fund the bill’s costs, many of the provisions align with Biden administration transportation priorities – and could serve as a possible cornerstone for a larger infrastructure package. (CQ and BGov, June 10)

  • House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said the chamber will take up the T&I committee bill the week of June 28.  A reauthorization bill for surface transportation is considered must-pass legislation as current funding expires Sept 30. (Washington Post, June 10)

  • In the Senate, several committees have jurisdiction over portions of that chamber’s surface transportation bill. The Environment and Public Works Committee unanimously voted on May 26 to advance a $303.5 billion bill over the next five years to fund the nation’s roads, bridges, tunnels, and mass transit projects. (Roundtable Weekly, June 4)

  • The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee is scheduled to consider rail and safety issues on June 16. Separately, a spokeswoman for Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Committee said Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-OH) said he continues to work with Ranking Member Patrick Toomey (R-PA) “in hopes of reaching a bipartisan agreement on a robust transit title for a surface transportation bill.” (CQ, June 10)

Reconciliation

Schumer fists podium
  • Democrats are also considering the use of the budget “reconciliation” process, which would allow them to bypass the Senate’s 60-vote requirement to pass legislation and push through an infrastructure package on a party line vote. (Roundtable Weekly, June 4)

  • Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY), above, said yesterday, “We continue to proceed on two tracks. A bipartisan track and a reconciliation track — and both are moving forward.” (Washington Post, June 10)

  • Schumer said last week that he wants to move forward on an infrastructure bill in July, whether it is bipartisan or not. (The Hill, May 25)

  • A National League of Cities’ 2021 State of Cities report released this week supported the need for infrastructure investment nationwide. Of the 600 mayors who provided information for the report, 91 percent said they did not have the funds to make needed infrastructure investments. (NLC news release, June 10)

The Roundtable will focus on the evolving infrastructure negotiations and their possible impact on CRE during its June 15-16 Annual Meeting and Policy Advisory Committee Meetings in Washington, DC.

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