House Democrats Introduce $547B Highway, Transit Bill Amid Infrastructure Talks

This Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019, file photo shows trains at a Caltrain station in San Francisco.

This Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019, file photo shows trains at a Caltrain station in San Francisco. AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

 

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Democrats’ proposal comes as President Biden continues to discuss infrastructure needs with Republican lawmakers.

House Democrats released a $547 billion surface transportation bill on Friday—a blueprint for President Biden’s larger infrastructure plan—that would allocate funding for bridges, roads, transit and railways over the next five years.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio said the proposal is a “once-in-a-generation opportunity to move our transportation planning out of the 1950s and toward our clean energy future.”

The plan would authorize $343 billion for roads, bridges and transportation safety, including $32 billion for bridge funding and $4 billion in electric vehicle charging infrastructure; $109 billion for public transit; and $95 billion for passenger and freight rail. The plan also sets aside $14.7 billion in earmarks for numerous member designated projects in local communities.

Biden initially proposed a $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan, but scaled it back to $1.7 trillion in a bid to appease the GOP and gain bipartisan support. Then, this week, in negotiations with Republicans, the president indicated that he is open to a plan with $1 trillion in new spending, according to multiple news reports.

Senate Republicans introduced a counteroffer in May that is significantly less funding overall, but dedicates a greater proportion of funding toward surface infrastructure. Their proposal would offer $928 billion in spending over eight years, but only about $257 billion of that total sum would be above already expected baseline line spending. Of the overall amount, $506 billion would go to roads.

Democrats' transportation proposal is viewed as a key building block for Biden’s infrastructure plan and the House committee will debate and vote on it on June 9. Biden endorsed the proposal on Friday.

Republicans on the transportation committee slammed the proposal in a statement released Friday, saying their priorities were never seriously considered for the bill.  

“So we are left with another bill that lets lengthy road and bridge project delays continue eating up precious resources, handcuffs our state and local partners, leaves rural communities behind, and prioritizes the Green New Deal to an extent that cripples the real infrastructure improvements communities across the country need,” said the lawmakers, led by Rep. Sam Graves.  

Biden met Friday afternoon with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, the lead Senate Republican negotiator, for another round of talks about the dueling proposals.  Capito offered a $50 billion increase to the GOP's latest $928 billion proposal, according to White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.

But Biden said the offer did not do enough to provide the kind of investment in the nation's infrastructure that he believes is necessary. The president will meet with Capito again Monday to continue talks, but Psaki said the president will "continue to engage a number of Senators in both parties in the hopes of achieving a more substantial package."

Andrea Noble is a reporter with Route Fifty.

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