While negotiations between the White House and Senate Republicans over a broad infrastructure package continue, House Democrats are moving ahead on their version of a potential key element of the wide-ranging measure: a five-year surface transportation reauthorization.
In announcing the bill's introduction on June 4, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and other top Democrats on the panel said the committee plans to vote on the legislation on June 9.
The largest component of the bill is $343 billion for highway and bridge construction and highway safety. Committee Democrats said the highway-bridge-safety funding would represent a 54% increase over current levels.
That part of the measure includes $8.3 billion for steps to curb carbon emissions, and $6.2 billion for “mitigation and resiliency improvements,” according to committee Democrats' summary of the bill.
Transit would receive $109 billion, a record amount, lawmakers say.
The bill also would allocate $95 billion for passenger and freight rail, including $32 billion for Amtrak, triple the current funding.
The Democrats say their bill will put an emphasis on “fixing our existing roads and bridges” and also will have “strong Buy America provisions and labor protections.”
De Fazio said in a statement that the bill “puts a core piece of President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan into legislative text—seizing this once-in-a-generation opportunity to move our transportation planning out of the 1950s and toward our clean energy future."
But Republicans on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, led by Rep. Sam Graves (Mo.), sharply criticized the Democrats’ bill, saying they "never seriously considered incorporating Republican priorities and reaching a compromise."
Graves and his GOP colleagues said, “Instead of working with Republicans to find common ground on a bill that could warrant strong bipartisan support —something our Senate cournterparts did successfully last month—this bill moves even further to the left to appease the most progressive members in the Majority’s party.”
The mention of Senate action refers to the May 26 unanimous bipartisan approval vote by that chamber’s Environment and Public Works Committee of a $303.5-billion highway bill.
Legislators in both chambers must act on a surface transportation bill by Sept. 30, when a current one-year authorization expires.