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WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats’ stalled infrastructure agenda appears to be catching its second wind. Leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives are signaling the possibility of votes, as early as this week, on the bulk of President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better domestic plan.
Biden’s legislative vision on Capitol Hill consists of a $1 trillion-plus Senate-passed physical infrastructure bill, and a nearly $2 trillion social infrastructure budget package. Progressives and moderates, who have engaged in intraparty negotiations, say they are arriving at an understanding.
“Congress needs to finish the job and bring both bills to a vote together,” noted Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Such a call to action has been widely shared by Democrats endorsing Biden’s recently unveiled $1.75 trillion social infrastructure budget framework.
The president, acknowledging he sought greater enhancements to address climate change and boost the social safety net, pointed to proposals such as $105 billion to address the impact of severe weather events on infrastructure projects. The social infrastructure budget Build Back Better Act would “create millions of good-paying jobs, enable more Americans to join and remain in the labor force, spur long-term growth, reduce price pressures and set the United States on course to meet its clean energy ambitions,” the White House asserted. As Biden put it, “We have to build back better and stronger. No one should have to hold their breath as they cross a run-down bridge or a dangerous intersection in their hometown.”
Proponents of Biden’s agenda tell colleagues they must legislate with a sense of urgency, since the infrastructure bill includes a five-year federal highway policy update. To avoid funding disruptions, the authority of the country’s premier highway law was extended through Dec. 3.
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) told CNN on Oct. 31, “We want to move both bills in tandem. And the second bill, the bill that deals with the needs of the working class of this country, in terms of child care, in terms of Pre-K, that deals with the existential threat of climate, that bill is still being worked on literally today. It will be worked on tomorrow.”
Sanders’ Senate colleagues, Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema and West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, continue to play an immense role in the negotiations.
Last week, Democrats intended to consider the infrastructure agenda before Biden left for Europe for a conference on climate change. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican leader, said he had been unimpressed after witnessing the majority party scramble to make a deal on their multitrillion-dollar economic agenda. “Trillions of dollars in spending, major expansions of government agencies and even more inflation that would lead to higher costs for all Americans. Those are all on the table. Yet, the details change by the minute,” McCarthy observed Oct. 28.
Trillions of dollars in spending, major expansions of government agencies and even more inflation that would lead to higher costs for all Americans. Those are all on the table.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.)
In the meantime, the stakes are high for the Biden administration to address transportation connectivity concerns linked to national supply chain woes. The U.S. Department of Transportation announced a partnership with California to assist with the flow of freight as part of ongoing efforts by the Biden-Harris Task Force on Supply Chain Disruptions. The announcement came soon after Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order meant to address supply chain concerns.
The governor said, “My administration will continue to work with federal, state, labor and industry partners on innovative solutions to tackle immediate challenges while also bringing our distribution processes into the 21st century.”
Speaking about the supply chain, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told CNN on Sunday, “We are going to continue to see challenges.”
The holidays are around the corner.
The Week Ahead (all times Eastern)
Nov. 3, 10 a.m.: The Senate Commerce Committee meets for a hearing titled, “Implementation of Aviation Safety Reform.” Federal Aviation Administration Chief Steve Dickson is scheduled to attend.
Nov. 3, 10 a.m.: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee meets for a hearing titled, “Update on U.S. Cybersecurity Policy.”
Nov. 3, 10 a.m.: The House Agriculture Committee meets for a hearing titled, “The Immediate Challenges to our Nation’s Food Supply Chain.”
Nov. 3, 11 a.m.: The Heritage Foundation hosts former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley.
Nov. 3, 2:30 p.m.: Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell hosts a virtual news conference.
Nov. 4, 9 a.m.: The House Select Modernization of Congress Committee meets for a hearing titled, “Article One: Strengthening Congressional Oversight Capacity.”
Nov. 4, 10 a.m.: The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee meets for a hearing titled, “Next Steps: The Road Ahead for the COVID-19 Response.” Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is scheduled to attend.
Nov. 4, 10 a.m.: The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee meets for a hearing titled, “The Evolving Cybersecurity Landscape: Industry Perspectives on Securing the Nation’s Infrastructure.”
Nov. 4, 10:15 a.m.: The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee meets for a hearing to consider the nomination of Michael Kubayanda to be a commissioner on the Postal Regulatory Commission.
Nov. 4, 12 p.m.: The Bipartisan Policy Center hosts a discussion on the midterm elections.
Nov. 4, 1 p.m.: The Woodrow Wilson Center’s Canada Institute hosts a discussion titled, “Taking Control: the United States & Canada Respond to China’s Supply Chain Challenge.”
U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) applauded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency new guidance for responding to PFAS contamination and exposure.
“PFAS contamination has plagued our communities and exposed our families to toxic chemicals for far too long,” he said. “This road map promises real, meaningful, science-based action to crack down on dangerous ‘forever chemicals,’ and the communities we represent will be both healthier and safer for it.”
The widely used per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, are long-lasting chemicals that have raised health concerns, according to EPA. Micheal Regan, the agency’s administrator, told this publication last week, “This will give us the ability to have a level of insight into just how toxic these chemicals are that are being produced by these manufacturers.”
With Virginians and New Jerseyans heading to the polls Nov. 2, politicos are preparing to take in an early jolt of voting data. While the Garden State’s gubernatorial contest is viewed by many observers as a predictable outcome for Democrats, the Old Dominion clash is being billed as this year’s must-see bellwether. Recent polls show the candidates, Republican Glenn Youngkin and Democrat Terry McAuliffe, statistically tied. Youngkin appears to be riding momentum thanks in part to Biden’s slumping approval ratings. McAuliffe, long-seen as the frontrunner, has called on national Democrats to advance the president’s Build Back Better infrastructure plan.
Take me home, country roads.
Making it official.
The surface transportation funding extension bill through Dec. 3 has been signed into law: https://t.co/BpiWp43xrb— Jeff Davis (@JDwithTW) October 31, 2021
The Last Word
This administration is working around the clock to address both near-term and long-term challenges to our supply chains.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Oct. 28
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