When will lawmakers make a decision on infrastructure spending?

By Jenny LescohierOctober 06, 2021

The U.S. Senate passed the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill by a vote of 69-30 (Photo courtesy of Reuters)

The prospect of expansive infrastructure spending and what it could do for American construction contractors remains unclear as U.S. lawmakers have kicked the can down the road once more. 

Just months ago, the Senate passed a $1.2-trillion bipartisan infrastructure package - the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act (IIJA) - which would add $550 billion in new spending over five years for infrastructure, including $110 billion for roads, bridges and major transportation projects, and $25 billion for airports.

The bill also includes a $118-billion bailout for the Highway Trust Fund, which is currently funded primarily through federal taxes on gas and diesel fuel.

The House delayed its vote on the Senate-passed infrastructure proposal while debate continued over the related $3.5-trillion economic plan which Senate Democrats want to see approved alongside IIJA through a process known as budget reconciliation.

Meanwhile, lawmakers issued a 30-day extension of surface transportation funding that was in a temporary lapse. That extension is set to expire on Oct. 31. 

The reconciliation condition has muddled the $1.2-trillion IIJA which had been briefly viewed as a bipartisan achievement. Democrats have insisted that the infrastructure bill would not be voted on until the Senate passed the broader spending plan which would invest in bigger-picture social programs such as child care, paid leave, health care, education and the fight against climate change.

Republicans unanimously oppose the reconcilation measure. Some who were formerly on board with the infrastructure bill are reconsidering their support due to its connection to the larger package.

Outside of Congress, the U.S. Chamber recently withdrew its support of the infrastructure bill if it remains tied to the reconciliation package.

“We support stand-alone enactment of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill and oppose the harmful reconciliation bill,” the Chamber said in a statement. “Prior to last Friday, it was clear that Congress could enact the infrastructure bill without enacting the reconciliation bill. Now, Congressional Democrats are linking the two bills together, resulting in holding the infrastructure bill hostage until the reconciliation bill moves forward.

“We will not back off our opposition to reconciliation because of our support for infrastructure. And we will continue to fight to delink the two bills so that we can enact the long-overdue infrastructure bill and avoid the economy-crushing reconciliation bill.”

In a speech at International Union of Operating Engineers Local 324 training facility in Howell, MI, President Joe Biden said the U.S. was at an inflection point in terms of economic competitiveness.

“These bills are not about left versus right or moderate versus progressive or anything that pits Americans against one another,” Biden was quoted by The Hill. “These bills are about competitiveness versus complacency. They’re about opportunity versus decay. They’re about leading the world or continuing to let the world pass us by. To support these investments is to create a rising America. To oppose these investments is to be complicit in America’s decline.”

According to a report from S&P Global, which was circulated by the White House, $1.2-trillion infrastructure plan could create close to one million new middle-class jobs over the next decade in fields such as construction, engineering and accounting.

“We estimate that, in real dollar terms, the project will create more in economic activity than it would cost,” the report stated. “In particular, we estimate that a $1-trillion investment in infrastructure would add $1.4 trillion to the economy over an eight-year period.”

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