US House Democrats Edge Closer to $3.5 Trillion Budget With Transportation Bill Approval

Rep. Peter DeFazio speaks at a past hearing. (House Television via Associated Press)

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Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives moved closer to realizing President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda after they advanced transit and climate change proposals in a transportation budget bill.

The Transportation and Infrastructure panel on Sept. 15 reported along party lines a nearly $60 billion measure. The transportation bill will be included as part of the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill, a significant component of the president’s proposals that the chamber’s leadership plans to finalize this month.

“From tackling climate change, to addressing racial and environmental injustices, to building back better after the COVID-19 pandemic, our nation faces big challenges. By advancing this legislation, we’re taking a key step forward in addressing those challenges,” said Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), on Sept. 15, after the panel approved its budget bill by a 37-29 vote.

Specifically, the transportation budget measure would dedicate $10 billion for mobility options across low-income communities, $4 billion to reduce greenhouse gas emissions throughout surface transportation corridors, and $4 billion for transportation equity and safety programs.

Additionally, the bill includes $2.5 billion for port infrastructure and freight supply chain resilience projects, $1 billion for developing low-emission technology projects at the U.S. Department of Transportation, $1 billion for the U.S. General Services Administration to promote energy-efficient buildings and $500 million for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The measure also proposes $6 billion for local surface transportation priorities, which are expected to result in earmarked funding for projects at congressional districts.

“With this legislation, we can reduce carbon pollution from the transportation sector that’s driving the climate crisis and make communities more resilient to extreme weather events; connect people with good-paying jobs and affordable housing; address the planning mistakes of the past by reconnecting communities; make meaningful investments to plan for and develop high-speed rail projects; provide more people access to clean water; and make our aviation and maritime sectors greener,” DeFazio added.

The House Democratic caucus intends to include the transportation budget bill in its $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation legislation. The larger budget measure aims to promote climate change infrastructure resilience, electric vehicle infrastructure, assistance for childcare and elderly healthcare, and myriad enhancements to the social safety net.

On the U.S. Senate side, Democratic leaders continue to affirm their plans to legislate on the budget bill this month. As Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) recently said, “Senate Democrats have been working around the clock for weeks and months with our House colleagues and the Biden administration on the ‘Build Back Better’ agenda.”



“We know the American people are facing challenges of monumental proportions. So we must and we will pass legislation that meets the moment,” the leader continued.

For months, Biden has toured the country to promote the “Build Back Better” domestic agenda. He emphasized potential climate change improvements and economic benefits linked to his social infrastructure plan. As he told an audience in Colorado on Sept. 14, “My ‘Build Back Better’ plan calls for significant new investments in upgrading research infrastructure, laboratories all across the country. We’ll be making one of those breakthroughs in solar, wind and storage on, out of these facilities, out-innovate the rest of the world and drive down the costs of renewable energy.”

Meanwhile, Republican leaders continue to largely oppose the Democrats’ budget reconciliation process. House transportation committee ranking member Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) referred to the budget bill as a “monstrous $3.5 trillion wish list.”



“What is really getting lost during this process is the cumulative impact all this spending will have, and the majority’s leaders talk about spending trillions of dollars like it’s pocket change,” Graves said. “They clearly aren’t going to listen to the American people, the majority of whom support putting the brakes on this kind of inflation-inducing spending.”

“When it comes to spending and the economy, President Biden, Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi, and the Democratic Leader [Schumer] have made a conscious decision. They don’t want Republican governing partners. They want to go it alone,” said Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

The congressional reconciliation process is meant to facilitate passage of certain budget bills in the U.S. Senate. A reconciliation bill necessitates a simple majority to pass in the upper chamber. Fifty senators are Democrats, as well as the vice president.

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