April 29, 2021 10:45 AM, EDT

Sam Graves Calls for Bipartisanship Amid Infrastructure Talks

Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.)“It will take compromise from both sides, but it can be done," Graves says of an infrastructure deal. (House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee)

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Reacting to President Joe Biden’s first address to a joint session of Congress, Sam Graves, the top Republican on the U.S. House of Representatives’ transportation committee, called on Democrats to pursue a bipartisan approach to legislating.

Graves (R-Mo.) said policymakers should work together as the transportation panel readies consideration of a multiyear highway policy bill, which is a pillar of the White House’s infrastructure agenda.

“Addressing America’s infrastructure is something Republicans and Democrats should be able to come to agreement on. But in order to get bipartisan legislation done, Republican priorities must be meaningfully addressed,” said Graves shortly after Biden’s address to federal lawmakers April 28.

He went on, “It will take compromise from both sides, but it can be done. I will continue working with the president, Secretary [Pete] Buttigieg, and my House and Senate colleagues on both sides of the aisle to find bipartisan consensus on investing in our nation’s transportation infrastructure: a goal we all share.”

Graves and fellow Republicans in the House are promoting provisions meant to streamline the environmental permitting process linked to infrastructure projects. They also propose focusing primarily on surface transportation modes when the chamber considers infrastructure policy bills.

Republicans in the Senate recently unveiled a nearly $600 billion policy blueprint targeting infrastructure related to roads, bridges, ports, railroads and broadband internet. Specifically, the GOP senators suggested providing nearly $300 billion for surface corridors, $65 billion to boost access to broadband, $61 billion for transit systems, $44 billion for airports and $13 billion for agencies, such as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The GOP blueprint is meant as an alternative to the White House’s $2.25 trillion infrastructure vision.

The White House’s proposal, called the American Jobs Plan, seeks to respond to concerns related to climate change. It also proposes to modernize the country’s mobility and energy grids, promote access to housing and enhance certain social services.

Biden urged Congress to advance his infrastructure agenda during his address on Capitol Hill: “The American Jobs Plan will create jobs that will lay thousands of miles of transmission lines needed to build a resilient and fully clean grid. We can do that.”

President Joe Biden addresses a joint session of Congress April 28

Biden unveiled a sweeping $1.8 trillion plan to expand educational opportunities and child care for families. (Melina Mara/Washington Post via Bloomberg News)

“The American Jobs Plan will help millions of people get back to their jobs and back to their careers,” added Biden. “Two million women have dropped out of the workforce during this pandemic, two million. And too often because they couldn’t get the care they needed to care for their child or care for an elderly parent who needs help.”

Under the American Jobs Plan, $115 billion would be dedicated for highways and bridges, $85 billion would go toward transit systems, $25 billion would be dedicated to airports and $17 billion for inland ports. The plan also would propose to fund 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations. Its primary source of funding would consist of raising the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chairman of the panel with jurisdiction over surface transportation policies, has pledged to advance Biden’s plan this year. As he put it after the president’s address: “The American people overwhelmingly support the goals laid out in the president’s American Jobs Plan and, as chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, I’m working with my colleagues to make that vision a reality.”

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