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June 22, 2020 4:15 PM, EDT

Democrats Showcase Their Version of Infrastructure Week

Nancy Pelosi “We think that this will be nonartisan, very bipartisan. And we look forward to working together: House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans, and with the White House," Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi says. (C-Span)

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The recent passage of a highway policy bill by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has refocused minds around freight circles on the country’s surface transportation inadequacies.

It’s worth repeating that thousands of bridges are structurally deficient. Tunnels connecting major freight routes are sometimes in need of rehabilitation. Well-known highways require maintenance. And the resulting gridlock is a self-inflicted wound to the economy.

To address such problems, the House measure aims to reduce traffic congestion and ameliorate bottlenecks by targeting rebuilding projects. The bill would fund essential dredging of harbors, ports and channels, and it would aim to reduce carbon pollution. Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) said after the bill’s approval: “The time is now to fix our crumbling infrastructure, cut carbon pollution from the transportation sector and create millions of good-paying jobs in urban, suburban and rural communities.”

Eugene Mulero

Mulero

The bill, which prominent Republicans dismissed as Green New Deal-esque, would update a 2015 highway law that expires Sept. 30. It also was included in the larger infrastructure package offered by House Democrats.

Policymakers will have another opportunity to debate the policy points when the larger bill reaches the chamber’s floor, possibly as early as this month. A robust debate on infrastructure affairs in the House would add to the long list of events shaping society this month. The Black Lives Matter protests, as well as the impact of the pandemic continue to dominate conversations in a presidential election year.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) expressed optimism about the macro bill’s fortunes, considering a Senate committee already approved a version of the highway reauthorization.

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“We think that this will be nonartisan, very bipartisan. And we look forward to working together: House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans, and with the White House,” she said June 18. “The president really wants, we understand, he really wants an infrastructure bill. He talks about it quite a bit.”

Despite their big, bold ideas, congressional transportation leaders have yet to resolve the matter of funding such infrastructure provisions. At least President Donald Trump suggested borrowing $2 trillion. Yet, if the president intends to unveil a significant infrastructure proposal to respond to Pelosi’s plan, the White House has not let it be known.

Often missing from the messaging out of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. is a policy outlook for rebuilding and modernizing the country’s transportation systems. Instead, the public is presented with near-daily attacks directed at the president’s critics and specific media outlets.

“I really think that we should have internal consistency here in the way we cover large crowds,” Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters June 19. “We should be guided by science, not cherry-picking science, as I see it all too often on the airwaves, especially from CNN.”

Highway policy bill by Transport Topics on Scribd

The Week Ahead (All times Eastern)

June 23, 10 a.m.: The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee meets for a hearing titled, “COVID-19: Lessons Learned to Prepare for the Next Pandemic.” Witnesses include former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.).

June 23, 11 a.m.: The House Energy and Commerce Committee meets for a hearing titled, “Oversight of the Trump Administration’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Witnesses include Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

June 23, 11 a.m.: The House Appropriations Committee is hosting its member’s day hearing for the fiscal 2021 appropriations process.

Ajit Pai

Pai

June 24, 10 a.m.: The Senate Commerce Committee hosts an oversight hearing on the Federal Communications Commission. Witnesses include FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

June 24, 11 a.m.: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce hosts a webinar titled, “Construction in the Time of COVID-19.” Participants include Chris Griffin, CEO of USG Corp.; Michael Stark, CEO of the Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry; Curtis Dubay, USCC senior economist; and Stephanie Potter, executive director of the USCC Sustainability and Circular Economy Program.

June 24, 2:30 p.m.: The Senate Budget Committee meets for a hearing on the nomination of Derek Kan to be deputy director of White House Budget Office.

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Vice President Mike Pence on June 16 in Iowa

Mike Pence

We publish weekly when Congress is in session. E-mail emulero@ttnews.com with tips. Follow us @eugenemulero and @transporttopics.

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