July 6, 2020 3:30 PM, EDT

Sen. Tom Carper Challenges Freight, Transit Committees to Craft Infrastructure Plans

Sen. Tom CarperTom Carper (D-Del.) is shown during a Senate Finance Committee hearing June 30. (Susan Walsh/Bloomberg News)

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It was a rare spark of hope last year when the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee gave bipartisan approval to a five-year highway bill that sought to streamline regulations and address climate change concerns.

Senators, stakeholders, and even President Donald Trump celebrated the committee’s work. EPW’s five-year, $287 billion reauthorization of the FAST Act garnered thumbs up on social media, and during the self-proclaimed “Builder-in-Chief’s” most recent State of the Union address.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) did her part last week when she led her caucus in giving partisan backing to a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan that, among other things, would reauthorize surface transportation programs. That $494 billion reauthorization, much like the Senate bill, left unresolved the looming insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund. Yet, the House bill did include provisions pertaining to transit and freight policy. The EPW bill did not.

Eugene Mulero


On July 1, Delaware Sen. Tom Carper, EPW panel’s ranking Democrat, reminded fellow senators in the Republican-led chamber about the unfinished business in the legislation.

“With the surface transportation reauthorization bill moving in the House, it’s time for the Senate Banking and Commerce committees to develop their own bipartisan titles so that a truly robust surface transportation reauthorization bill can come to the Senate floor in the months ahead. The American people are counting on us to get this done. We can’t let them down,” Carper said at a hearing examining infrastructure policy’s role in an economic recovery.

“A year ago, we unanimously approved [America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act], our bipartisan surface transportation reauthorization bill that would make an historic $287 billion investment in our nation’s roads, highways and bridges. We then said to our sister committees — Banking, Commerce and Finance — we’re doing our job on EPW; it’s time for you to do yours,” he added.


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A shrinking calendar and growing pressure to advance a COVID-19 economic relief measure will dominate much of the Senate’s energy when it returns to the Capitol later this month. The leadership on the committees Carper mentioned are not scheduled to meet to reauthorize transportation policies.

With the 2015 FAST Act highway law expiring at the end of September, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his leadership team has the choice to either reauthorize the highway law or consider a short-term authorizing extension.

McConnell, like Trump, has not said too much about infrastructure policy lately. The majority leader did, however, say, “Partisan theater and politicized wish lists are not what our country needs.”

The Week Ahead (All times Eastern)

July 8, 11 a.m.: The House Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Subcommittee marks up the fiscal 2021 transportation funding bill.

Barbara Humpton


July 8, noon: The Washington Post hosts a webcast titled, “The Path Forward: Strategic Preparedness.” Participants include Barbara Humpton, president and CEO of Siemens USA.

July 9, 10 a.m.: The Federal Aviation Administration and the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International meet for a webcast titled, “Unmanned Aircraft Systems Symposium — Remotely Piloted Edition.” Participants include Sean Cassidy, Amazon Prime Air safety and regulatory affairs director.

July 9, noon: The Washington Post hosts a webcast with Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego to address developments with the coronavirus pandemic.

Freight Corridor

Meanwhile, around the country, Idaho garners a best-in-show recognition.


The House Democrats’ recent climate change report proposed setting stricter greenhouse gas emission standards for cars, heavy-duty trucks, and the aviation sector.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on July 2

Mitch McConnell

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

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