Although White House negotiations with Senate Republicans over a wide-ranging infrastructure package have broken down, Congress is making progress on more targeted, though still significant, infrastructure bills.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (T&I) on June 9 approved one major measure, authorizing $50 billion over five years for wastewater, sewer-overflow and other water infrastructure projects.
The House committee cleared the water infrastructure bill on a 42-25 vote. It was somewhat bipartisan, with five Republicans joining Democrats as “aye” votes.
But the panel’s top GOP member, Sam Graves of Missouri, criticized the Democratic majority for not including many Republican priorities.
A key part of the T&I bill is its record $40 billion over five years for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF), a principal source of federal aid for wastewater treatment infrastructure projects. The legislation also reauthorizes the SRF program for the first time since its creation, in 1987.
Committee Chair Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) said in a statement, "The bill represents a renewal of the federal commitment to invest in our wastewater infrastructure and address local water quality challenges and it's long overdue."
DeFazio also noted the measure would direct states to provide a larger share of the SRF aid to cities and towns in the form of grants, rather than loans. That shift makes the SRF aid more attractive, especially to localities with limited financial resources.
The Senate is further along than the House on water infrastructure legislation. On April 29, the full Senate approved a bipartisan five-year $35-billion water measure by an 89-2 vote.
But the Senate bill authorizes only $14.65 billion for Clean Water SRFs, less than half of the amount in the House T&I bill.
The Senate version also funds drinking water SRFs, at $14.65 billion. The House T&I Committee's version has no drinking water provisions because that sector doesn’t fall under its jurisdiction.
Adam Krantz, National Association of Clean Water Agencies chief executive officer, praised the House committee's action on the wastewater legislation.
Krantz said in a statement that "it is clear that both chambers of Congress are working hard to deliver robust funding and support to America's public clean water sector in advance of President Biden's comprehensive infrastructure package."
As of late evening, the committee was still working its way through dozens of amendments to an even larger infrastructure bill, a $547-billion, five-year highway-transit-rail authorization.