With a deadline looming, Congress Sept. 30 approved a spending package that temporarily averted a shutdown of most federal agencies, including many construction programs, and provides nearly $29 billion in emergency funds to help states recover and rebuild after Hurricane Ida and other natural disasters.
Final congressional action on the legislation came with the House’s approval on a 254-175 vote. The action came just hours before the midnight end of the 2021 fiscal year, when the funding was due to lapse.
Earlier in the afternoon, the Senate cleared the measure by a 65-35 vote. President Joe Biden signed the bill into law in the evening.
Still unsettled is the fate of the federal highway and transit program authorizations, which also are slated to expire at midnight Sept. 30.
Those reauthorizations are part of a separate $1-trillion infrastructure bill awaiting approval by the House. The new House- and Senate-approved package includes a continuing resolution, or CR, to keep the agencies operating.
House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) said in a statement that “this bill is not a permanent solution.” DeLauro added, “I look forward to soon beginning negotiations with my counterparts across the aisle and across the Capitol to complete full-year government funding bills that reverse decades of disinvestment.”
So far, the House has approved nine of the 12 individual appropriations bills for 2022. The Senate has approved none of the measures yet.
Construction groups have long preferred full-year appropriations bills, or months-long temporary spending measures, to short CRs.
Of the package’s $28.6 billion in emergency post-disaster aid, the US Army Corps of Engineers civil works programs is set to receive $5.7 billion. Of that, $3 billion will go to accelerate construction of Corps flood and storm-damage reduction projects. Half of the $3 billion is allocated to states with declared major disasters from Ida.
The new spending package also includes $2.6 billion for the Federal Highway Administration’s emergency relief program. It reimburses states for the costs of repairing major highways and bridges and other highway-related purposes, such as debris removal.
Moreover, the new measure has $5 billion for Housing and Urban Development Dept. Community Development Block Grants for recovery from disasters that occurred in 2020 and 2021. Those grants can be used to restore housing and infrastructure, as well as for economic recovery and mitigation work.
The House had approved a similar spending bill on Sept. 21, but that version also included a provision to suspend the U.S. debt limit.
[View ENR 9/21/2021 story here.]
That measure stalled in the Senate, where Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was adamantly opposed to including the debt limit language in the CR.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) eventually stripped the debt limit provision from the new CR legislation.