Work on infrastructure policies is picking up in Washington; however, the path forward and what might become law require additional scrutiny. The White House has proposed changes to its original outline, two key Senate committees plan votes this week on infrastructure-related legislation, and House action is possible after the Memorial Day break.
The White House engagement with Congress to build support for the president's American Jobs Plan is focused in part on gaining Republican support for the package content and how it would be paid for, thus allowing progress via a regular order rather than budget reconciliation. But that bipartisan support remains elusive. Last Friday the White House, responding to the most recent Republican proposal, offered changes to the original American Jobs Plan. Republicans did not see sufficient concessions in the new offer to gain their support and thus remain opposed to the scope and cost of the White House plan. A new Republican counter-offer is reportedly being developed for delivery later this week.
This Wednesday the Senate Environment and Public Works committee intends to mark up elements of the Surface Transportation Act within the committee's jurisdiction. The $304B bill addresses highways, bridges, alternative fuel vehicles, safety, environmental standards, and other policy areas that are generally similar to those of the bill passed by the committee last year. Of note, the committee's bill has bipartisan support, including from ranking member Capito (R-WV), who is also a leading negotiator with the White House and remains opposed to its broader infrastructure package.
The Senate Finance Committee is expected to mark up Chairman Wyden's "Clean Energy for America" tax bill, which would overhaul most existing energy tax credits in favor of a "technology-neutral" approach. Supporters and opponents of the bill are expected to make the markup spirited. Opposition is mostly coming from traditional energy sources, while low-carbon energy tends to support the bill. Other key Senate committees, including Commerce (railroad and broadband provisions) and Banking (transit policies), have not yet scheduled votes, but that could happen in June. The current state of Senate floor consideration is unknown.
House committees, including Transportation and Infrastructure, Ways and Means, and Energy and Commerce, could advance bills prior to July 4; however, their exact timing remains unclear, as does that of the full House vote on infrastructure legislation.
Venable will continue to follow these developments closely and report as needed. If you have specific questions, contact Jim Reilly, Mike Bloomquist, or Jim Burnley, who are leading Venable's Legislative Infrastructure team.