Rep. Graves Raises Concerns Amid Infrastructure, Budget Debate

Rep. Sam Graves
“A lot of recent funding has masqueraded as pandemic-related relief,” Rep. Sam Graves says. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News)

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The top Republican on the transportation panel in the U.S. House of Representatives raised concerns about certain infrastructure programs that received emergency federal aid during the pandemic.

Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s ranking member, took issue with billions of dollars in assistance approved by Democratic leaders that was specific for passenger rail, transit operations and various connectivity initiatives. During the pandemic and since the start of the Biden administration, House Republican leaders have questioned the size and policy range of big-ticket federal emergency aid measures.

“A lot of recent funding has masqueraded as pandemic-related relief,” Graves said during a hearing July 29, prior to the congressional August recess. “For example, more than $1 billion for Amtrak, school funds for critical race theory and loads of extraneous green projects. And now the majority wants to add another $3.5 trillion to the tab through its ‘human infrastructure’ bill, which will be jammed through using the partisan budget reconciliation process.”



Graves’ critique of Democratic priorities linked to emergency aid previews the chamber’s partisan dispute ahead of the consideration of President Joe Biden’s infrastructure agenda. A $1 trillion infrastructure funding bill and a $3.5 trillion budget measure for social and environmental programs are on the House’s legislative radar.

“We cannot casually throw around trillion-dollar figures now like we’re playing with Monopoly money. We must consider where these astronomical amounts of money are actually coming from,” Graves observed.

“The effects of this cumulative, unchecked spending are real. And we’re seeing it every day. The price of consumer goods has gone up nearly across the board,” he added.

On the other side of the Capitol, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), ranking member on the highway policy committee, echoed Graves’ sentiment. The senator, who will oversee the consideration of infrastructure policy on the floor of the Senate, has pushed back on a potential $3.5 trillion Democratic budget proposal, calling it “a ridiculous waste of spending; reckless spending, reckless taxes.”

“They don’t even know what they’re going to put in it. They just know they want to spend a whole heck of a lot of money and raise a whole heck of a lot of taxes. We’re going to fight tooth and nail to try to stop this,” Capito said July 29. “We’ve always known that the mechanism of which they’re going to pass this, whether it’s $3.5 [trillion] or $5 trillion package, is going to be all partisan, all Democrats. We’ve got to put pressure on them to say look, we’ve got inflationary worries here. We’ve seen a slower recovery than what was predicted, and this is a waste of the taxpayers' dollars at the wrong time.”

The federal government was called upon to respond to this public health crisis in a way that was unprecedented.

Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), House Transportation Committee chairman


A $3.5 trillion budget measure, expected to be produced by Senate budget leaders, has been touted by the Democratic caucus’ transportation members. Democrats governing from the majority perspective also have defended the approval of COVID-19 aid.

As House Transportation Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) put it, “The federal government was called upon to respond to this public health crisis in a way that was unprecedented on a national scale for such a prolonged period of time, and it continues to do this work on a daily basis across our country.”

The chairman added, “The pandemic also wreaked havoc on our economy, decimating the financial livelihood of many American workers and businesses, particularly in the transportation sector. Congress took unprecedented actions to help cushion the economic blow to workers, families and small businesses.”

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