House Considers Highway Policy Bill This Week
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Legislation designed to update the country’s surface transportation policies is scheduled for floor consideration this week, likely Tuesday or Wednesday, in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The leadership of the chamber’s Democratic majority touts the legislation as a key piece of President Joe Biden’s infrastructure agenda. They intend to advance the bill prior to July 4 to demonstrate a sense of urgency. The five-year, $547 billion bill would reauthorize a federal highway policy law, which expires at the end of September.
“This legislation is an important step in reauthorizing surface transportation programs that expire in September and modernizing our nation’s roads, bridges, rail, and transit,” said Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). “It also contains critical provisions to ensure safe drinking water and includes measures to address water infrastructure needs.”
Proponents point to the bill’s potential for realizing a modernization of freight and commuter mobility networks, as well as improvements to transit systems large and small. Specifically, the bill would approve $343 billion in funding for highways and about $100 billion for transit.
Sponsors also highlight climate change proposals meant to respond to severe-weather events that have exposed vulnerabilities across infrastructure systems. The chamber’s transportation leader, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), told us as much earlier this month: “There’s certainly an overwhelming desire among Americans to deal with climate change. So, that’s one key component.”
Various trucking-centric provisions are included in the legislation, such as a grants program to expand parking for truckers (see: “Legislative Docket”). The bill would direct the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to accelerate the modernization of the agency’s information technology and management systems, complete outstanding statutory mandates and undertake a new Large Truck Causation study.
House passage of the bill would likely not include significant support from Republicans. And its chances of reaching the president’s desk remain uncertain. Observers point to the possibility for the highway measure to find a home in a larger legislative package.
A recent bipartisan deal between Biden and several senators on infrastructure policy raised questions about the president’s agenda. Biden clarified his support for the bipartisan deal as moderate lawmakers continued to express support for infrastructure and highway policy bills.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), meanwhile, insisted she would pursue a two-track maneuver to pass a bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill and a budget-centric measure lacking Republican support. As she put it, “If there is no bipartisan bill, then we’ll just go when the Senate passes a (budget) reconciliation bill.”
The Week Ahead (all times EDT):
June 28, 2 p.m.: The Atlantic Council hosts an event titled, “The Role of Oil and Gas in Net Zero.”
June 28, 3 p.m.: The House Rules Committee considers the multiyear highway policy bill titled, “Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America Act.”
June 28, 5:30 p.m.: The House Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee considers fiscal 2022 funding legislation.
June 29, 10:30 a.m.: The House Energy Subcommittee meets for a hearing on “The CLEAN Future Act and Electric Transmission: Delivering Clean Power to the People.”
June 30, 10 a.m.: The House Biotechnology, Horticulture and Research Subcommittee meets for a hearing titled, “Supply Chain Recovery and Resiliency: Small Producers and Local Agricultural Markets.”
June 30, 10:30 a.m.: The House Energy and Commerce Committee meets for a hearing titled, “A Safe Wireless Future: Securing our Networks and Supply Chains.”
June 30, 2 p.m.: The House Select Climate Crisis Committee meets for a hearing titled, “Transportation Investments for Solving the Climate Crisis.”
Senate Republican leaders have expressed opposition to several aspects of President Biden’s agenda.
Funding to expand parking facilities for truck drivers around the country is included in comprehensive highway policy legislation before the U.S. House of Representatives. The highway bill would pave the way for $1 billion in grants to enhance states’ resources for truck parking. Specifically, the provision would provide $250 million for each fiscal year starting 2023 through 2026 to require the secretary of transportation to establish grants for truck parking initiatives. Agencies awarded the grants would be tasked with building safe rest areas that include parking for commercial motor vehicles. Additionally, the transportation secretary would be required to review the grants and report to Congress about the provision’s progress.
September will be a busy month for major transportation bills, sources tell us.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has something to say.
We witnessed a dramatic change in commuting behavior due to a divide between those able to work from home, and those deemed too essential to work from home.
— Robert Hampshire, nominee to be assistant secretary for Research and Technology on June 24.
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