Bipartisan highway bill advances in Senate, offering a path through infrastructure morass

“Our success this morning shows that we can achieve a lot if we work together and focus on real transportation infrastructure,” said Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) at the end of the serve.

Even Democrats said it gave fresh impetus to other committees weighing a transport-centric bill. These include the Senate Banking Committee, which has to make some of the transit, and the Finance Committee, which has to decide how to pay for everything.

“It won’t be the final version,” said EPW chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.) Of the bill that his committee passed on Wednesday. “It’s not going according to anyone’s plan, but at least we’re moving forward.”

Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), EPW ranking member and leading GOP negotiator for the broader push, said the bill approved on Wednesday could serve as an “anchor” for wider efforts. She said she plans to return to the White House on Thursday to represent her case that the bill, along with earlier Senate approval of a water infrastructure package, p. 914 (117), highlights the possibilities of a closely coordinated offering of an infrastructure package.

“We agree that these are two important pieces of infrastructure. So we’ll bring them back to the White House and see what we can build on,” she told reporters. “What we’ve shown is that the regular order by the committee can really meet a lot of the priorities and I think that’s important.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the EPW committee’s bill was “a model of the approach Congress would use to create a successful comprehensive infrastructure bill this year.”

For the most part, those involved in the infrastructure effort have viewed it as inevitable that Congress would pass a non-partisan transportation bill and the rest would fall on a reconciliation package that the Democrats could pass without the support of the GOP. Legislators have September 30th to pass a “land” transportation bill that includes highways, transit and probable rail.

“If you can make a deal [surface transportation reauthorization] I think that’s fine, ”said a transport industry lobbyist. “And you take that off of what would then go into reconciliation, and that’s a good thing. I still think that Biden seeks reconciliation no matter what.”

Another lobbyist said he was “optimistic about the surface bill and macro package”.

When asked if he expected reconciliation, the lobbyist said, “Sure. What’s wrong with it? We still get a big package that could be bipartisan and then a big package that could not be bipartisan. Ultimately, you still get a lot of money for the infrastructure. “

Of course, the bill, approved by the EPW committee on Wednesday, is the simplest elevator – due to legal jurisdiction, the bill can only cover streets – and there is also a long history of bipartisan cooperation in space. Political opposites like Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) And former Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) Regularly bridged their divisions to generate bills.

Whether this can be transferred to other panels is an open question.

Some progressives say the bipartisan Autobahn Act should in no way be viewed as a cap on the extent of their ultimate ambitions for infrastructure and climate legislation.

“It has always been the premise that whatever we’ve agreed with Republicans on infrastructure is the limit for bipartisan law, but not the limit for what we can achieve. And this reconciliation would enable us to go beyond that, ”Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) Told POLITICO. “The important thing is that we don’t allow Republicans to limit our efforts.”

External environmental groups repeated this disappointment. Will Anderson, associate director of legal counsel for the Sierra Club’s Clean Transportation for All campaign, said the legislation was “a remarkable start, but much more is needed to impact the climate and fund the change that is needed in our transportation systems.” “.

In contrast, Republicans have already cited EPW’s moves as an example of properly drafting infrastructure laws, a message they highlighted at their weekly executive press conference on Tuesday.

“We hope the President We’re going to look at the work we’ve done in EPW. Use this as the basis for an infrastructure package and we can move it forward. “Serious said. “This is what Americans consider infrastructure: roads, bridges, waterways, locks and dams – and broadband throw in and we have a bill.”

Even amid these calls, Carper phrased Wednesday’s movement as a move that he hopes will move other committees to move.

“I’m encouraged by the kind of talks that are going on – non-partisan talks – in finance, banking, commerce,” he said. “I hope what we’re doing here today will encourage them to go faster.”

Tanya Snyder contributed to this report.

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