The U.S. House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee this week will move a bill spending $547 billion over five years on surface transportation including rail and public transit and another $50 billion measure focused on wastewater infrastructure. The highway bill as it is known has no Republican supporters, the water bill has two.
Meanwhile, President Biden held another conversation with the lone Senate Republican, Shelly Moore Capito of West Virginia, willing to publicly engage in discussions on a broader infrastructure bill. He wants $1 trillion in new spending, and she wants $250 billion. That’s not close even by Washington’s math. And they cannot agree on the definition of infrastructure.
Transportation Secretary Buttigieg placed a June 7 deadline on Washington for talks, though he works for Biden. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) indicated he would like to move an infrastructure bill in July, following an ambitious timeline set forth by Speaker Pelosi last month. None of this adds up to a bipartisan agreement anytime soon, but it does expedite one-party action.
The Senate parliamentarian recently ruled that Democrats may only use the reconciliation process once this year to move a sweeping list of their priorities, rather than two bites as some hoped. The reconciliation process allows the U.S. Senate to avoid the filibuster and pass a sweeping bill if all 48 Democrats and two independents support the legislation – no Republicans needed. For virtually every Democrat, this was always the plan and should surprise no observer of Washington – move a bill on your own. Now that we know Congressional Democrats have only one shot at moving a single bill in 2021 with their priorities, the road has straightened quite a bit. Expect significant movement by House and Senate Committees this month.