USDOT Funding Bill, Infrastructure Talks Dominate Congress This Week
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Legislation designed to boost the U.S. Department of Transportation’s budget in fiscal 2022 and a multitrillion-dollar infrastructure policy proposal will consume Congress’ schedule this week, as lawmakers prepare to leave town for the August recess.
On the House side, Democrats, led by Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) intend to set up a vote on the fiscal 2022 transportation appropriations measure as part of a multilegislation package that would fund other departments.
This month, the House Appropriations Committee approved $84.1 billion in discretionary spending for USDOT and related infrastructure programs. The legislation would dedicate an additional $8.7 billion, or more than an 11% increase from the fiscal 2021 level. The bill proposed allocating the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration $379.5 million for its operations budget and $506.2 million for safety grants.
“After the devastation of the pandemic and decades of disinvestment, the American economy caters increasingly to the wealthy and leaves the middle class, hardworking families, small businesses and the vulnerable behind,” DeLauro said. “With these bills, we are reversing these trends and investing in the American people. Together, our transformative and historic funding increases will create good-paying jobs, grow opportunity for the middle class and small businesses, and provide a lifeline for working families and the vulnerable.”
Senate appropriators have yet to advance their fiscal 2022 transportation funding bill. Senators also appear divided on efforts to put President Joe Biden’s “build back better” infrastructure agenda in legislative form. With Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) signaling the possibility of scheduling a procedural vote this week on a bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan, Senate negotiators say they are rushing to finalize the legislation before the August recess.
“We’re going to legislate the language with colleagues and with staff, and I feel good about getting that done this week. We have one issue outstanding. And we’re not getting much response from the Democrats on it. It’s about mass transit. Our transit number is generous,” Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said over the weekend on ABC News.
Congressional politics being the way they are, Republican leaders declared their staunch opposition to an infrastructure plan that would be linked to a $3.5 trillion social programs-centric budget measure. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and members of his caucus said they are prepared to push back.
It isn’t in America’s best interest to have blank pages on a multi-trillion dollar spending plan.
Make no mistake, the Democrats’ reckless tax & spending spree is a tax increase on people living paycheck to paycheck. pic.twitter.com/MQZISJPMvq — Tim Scott (@SenatorTimScott) July 26, 2021
As Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) recently observed, “I’m skeptical, along with the Democrats who are actually planning to do, not with just the $1.2 [trillion], but with the $3.5 [trillion] that is fused together. That’s just enormous spending. And inflation is already a tax increase on people making much less than $400,000. It’s a tax increase on people working paycheck to paycheck.”
The Week Ahead (All times Eastern)
Deputy Transportation Secretary Polly Trottenberg (Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg News)
July 27, 10 a.m.: The Senate Commerce Committee meets for a hearing titled, “Pipeline Cybersecurity: Protecting Critical Infrastructure.” Witnesses include Transportation Security Administration Administrator David Pekoske and Deputy Transportation Secretary Polly Trottenberg.
July 28, 10 a.m.: The Senate Commerce Committee meets to review the nomination of Alexander Hoehn-Saric to be chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
July 28, 1 p.m.: The House Natural Resources Committee meets for a hearing on President Joe Biden’s fiscal 2022 budget priorities for U.S. territories.
July 28, 1 p.m.: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce hosts its 10th annual private-public partnerships conference.
July 29, 1 p.m.: The Hill hosts an event titled, “Energy Efficiency and Climate Justice.” Participants include Kim Foreman, executive director of Environmental Health Watch; Ben Passer, lead director for energy access and equity at Fresh Energy; and Jacqueline Patterson, founder and executive director of the Chisholm Legacy Project.
The supply chain is examined in an analysis by Reuters.
Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.), policymakers on the highways and freight committees, introduced the Modern, Clean and Safe Trucks Act of 2021 to repeal the 12% federal excise tax, which is considered among the highest percentage excise taxes levied on any product. The tax has been in place for more than a century.
Critics argue the tax generates a minimal source of revenue for the Highway Trust Fund account, and it could discourage private investment for modernizing the domestic truck fleet. The trust fund account relies primarily on revenue from the federal fuel tax.
“Our tax policy is one of the most effective ways congress can encourage cleaner and greener technology. The current federal excise tax has become a barrier to the progress,” Cardin said in a joint statement July 22.
Former Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D) launched a U.S. Senate run in Iowa. During her congressional tenure, she had a seat on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) hits the late-night circuit to promote D.C. statehood.
Bipartisan infrastructure group issues formal statement of "significant progress" toward finalizing their framework into an actual bill, which is the default line they've been feeding to reporters for weeks. pic.twitter.com/k0RJZIV9RZ — Lindsey McPherson (@lindsemcpherson) July 21, 2021
The Last Word
To put a fine point on it, what [has]happened in the triangle countries [El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala] in six months where we went from the lowest illegal crossings coming from that part of the world to the highest?
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on July 21
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