US Senate Committee Unanimously Passes $304 Billion Highway Bill

As White House and Senate leaders debate “the big” infrastructure package, the Environment and Public Works Committee passed 34 percent more in funding than the last similar package with all 20 members in favor.

Source : C-SPAN

May 27, 2021

Author : Patty Rodriguez

The funding lasts for five years and marks a massive increase over the 2015 Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, which carried $226.3 billion in funds. The extension on the FAST Act ends on September 30, so passing a new bill is crucial before then.

The bill, entitled “Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act of 2021, “could move as stand-alone legislation, but it might also be part of that more sweeping infrastructure measure,” Engineering News-Record reports.

The Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee “is setting the standard for bipartisan leadership in the Senate. The Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act is the product of months of good-faith negotiations with a lot of back and forth. The quality of the bill and today’s overwhelmingly bipartisan vote are a testament to the care, time, and effort of both Republicans and Democrats,” said Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), who leads negotiations for Congressional Republicans with the infrastructure package proposed by the White House.

“I’m hopeful this bipartisan product can be the anchor of a larger infrastructure package moving forward, and I look forward to moving this across the finish line on the Senate floor soon,” she added

“I’m proud that we’ve advanced a robust, bipartisan investment in our nation’s highways, roads, and bridges that will make a vital first down payment on President Biden’s American Jobs Plan,” said Tom Carper (D-DE), the top Democrat on the EPW Committee.

While an important signifier of bipartisan support for improving the nation’s highways, the bill passed by the committee is just the first part of the legislative sausage — ehem, process. The Banking, Commerce and Finance committees need to pass bills devoted to transit, highway safety and revenue, and the House of Representatives will also need to introduce and vote on a companion bill.

The Senate Committee’s bill gives $18 billion to fight carbon emissions, which includes $2.5 billion for the construction of charging stations for electric vehicles and infrastructure for the refueling of hydrogen cell-powered vehicles, ENR reports. Additionally, $500 million is put towards bolstering infrastructure against hurricanes and wildfires. 

Democrats successfully fought for a provision which addresses transportation inequality; projects which have historically “divided and harmed to many neighborhoods across our nation,” according to Sen. Carper. Meanwhile, Republicans are celebrating the inclusion of an executive order by former President Donald Trump which sped up the federal review process of infrastructure projects. The policy, which has been opposed by environmental groups, would be codified under the new legislation.

Republican committee leader Sen. Capito said that 90 percent of the funding from the new bill would be distributed to states through formula, giving them “the flexibility and the certainty necessary to get those projects” that increased the inequality Sen. Carper hopes to undo.

"There is a lot in this bill for both sides," she said.

Category : Federal Government Green Construction Health and Safety Investment in Infrastructure Freeways and Highways Public Works

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