U.S. Infrastructure Bill Could Pass Committee in May, Chair Says
(Bloomberg) -- The centerpiece of President Joe Biden’s next big priority after pandemic relief, a massive transportation infrastructure package, could move through a key Senate committee by the end of May, according to its chair.
Democratic Senator Tom Carper of Delaware, who heads the Environment and Public Works panel, said the infrastructure initiative could be signed into law as a component of Biden’s broader economic recovery plan before the end of September.
“That’s our timetable -- we’re already working on it,” Carper told reporters Wednesday. “And we’re working across the aisle.”
The committee’s work is the first step for Biden’s soon-to-be-unveiled, longer-term economic stimulus package. The “Build Back Better” program will be the next big focus for Democrats who control the Senate and House, and will be far more expansive than the $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill Biden plans to sign into law by the end of the week.
Carper said there is no agreement yet on the total amount for the transportation infrastructure part of the package. He noted that his panel in 2019 approved a five-year plan worth nearly $290 billion to fund roads, highways and bridges, and the House passed a bill worth $320 billion over five years, not counting transit projects. Neither of those proposals became law. Carper said this year’s proposal could be worth roughly 30% more “as a starting point, and we’ll go from there.”
The Democratic chairman said he is confident that at least 10 Republicans will support the infrastructure bill, which would allow the Senate to pass it without using the budget-reconciliation process or changing the chamber’s rules.
Carper said he and West Virginia Senator Shelley Moore Capito, the top Republican on his panel, have asked all senators to consult with governors and their state transportation departments to prepare input on their requests by March 19. The committee will then convene a series of hearings before crafting the package.
Capito told reporters that while she and Carper are aiming for a bipartisan package in the committee, and Biden personally assured her he wants GOP support, she worries Democrats could eventually try to go it alone -- as they did with the Covid-19 relief bill.
“There is a lot of chatter about basically denigrating our ideas and saying, ‘We’re just going to go big,’” Capito said. “I’m really concerned about that.”
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