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July 20, 2020 3:45 PM, EDT

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: 'Clock is Ticking’ on Congressional Agenda

Nancy Pelosi Nancy Pelosi says the slow pace of negotiations in the Senate likely will drive up the cost of the next stimulus bill. (Cheriss May/Bloomberg News)

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President Donald Trump met recently with Chris Wallace of Fox News Sunday for an interview focused on his response to the pandemic, as well as the White House’s position on other matters.

During the interview, the president, as expected, stayed true to his traits. He pushed back on critics. He was defiant of certain reporting from experts and the media. And, obviously, he defended his team’s performance. Remarks from the president included:

  • “I’ve been right probably more than anybody else.”
  • “We did a testing program the likes of which nobody’s ever done before.”
  • "I will be right eventually.”

Eugene Mulero

Mulero

Yet, while the president persists with an optimistic viewpoint on his pandemic response, he has yet to outline a long-term funding plan necessary for rebuilding and maintaining the country’s network of bridges, tunnels, ports, railroads, highways and waterways. He signaled he would propose such a plan and he even briefly discussed infrastructure funding earlier this year when he floated borrowing $2 trillion for projects.

To his credit, the president did recently realize a change to the National Environmental Policy Act to streamline the permitting process for certain infrastructure projects.

On Capitol Hill, Democrats criticized the NEPA reforms. They had recently advanced climate change and environmental protection policies in a $1.5 trillion infrastructure package that also reauthorized a 2015 highway law expiring Sept. 30. But, Democrats in the House, like Senate Republicans, stopped short of tackling the looming insolvency of an account used to help fund road projects around the country.

NEPA Fact Sheet by Transport Topics on Scribd

With Congress ready to finish out its summer session this month, negotiations on the next round of COVID-19 stimulus have picked up in the Senate. About $1 trillion is what the Senate GOP leadership is likely to propose, falling $2 trillion short from a House-passed version.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) emphasized she was not impressed with the pace of the talks.

“Quite frankly, with the time that has gone by and the attitude that the president has had, the negative attitude the president has had, we probably will need more money,” the speaker told reporters July 16. “We do have in the … Moving Forward [Act ] legislation that we passed — our infrastructure bill — we have another $100 billion for school construction. That was important even before coronavirus.”

In other words, the speaker explained, “The clock is ticking.”

Less than four months from the election, several prominent transportation groups continue to urge Congress and the White House to approve infrastructure funding measures. For obvious reasons, they are eager to begin new construction projects.

American Road and Transportation Builders Association CEO Dave Bauer noted, “Maximizing the benefits of the president’s NEPA reforms is another in a long line of reasons for Congress to complete action on a robust, multiyear surface transportation investment bill before the current law expires Sept. 30.”

The Week Ahead (all times Eastern)

July 21, 2:30 p.m.: The Senate Manufacturing, Trade, and Consumer Protection Subcommittee meets for a hearing titled, “Protecting Americans from COVID-19 Scams.”

July 22, 10 a.m.: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee meets for a hearing titled, “Stopping the Spread: Examining the Increased Risk of Zoonotic Disease from Illegal Wildlife Trafficking.”

July 22, 10 a.m.: The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee considers legislative measures and nominations.

July 23, 10 a.m.: The Senate Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet Subcommittee meets for a hearing titled, “The State of U.S. Spectrum Policy.”

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

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