Construction industry leaders urge House to pass infrastructure bill

Construction industry leaders urge House to pass infrastructure bill

Phil Puccio

Dive brief:

  • The House of Representatives has not yet voted on the $1 trillion bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), due to opposition from Republicans and disputes among members of the Democratic party. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had first promised to bring it to the floor on Sept. 27.
  • On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said his party will aim to pass both IIJA and a major reconciliation package by the end of October, CNBC reported, when major transportation funding programs will expire. 
  • CNN reported Monday that several Republicans who were formerly on board are now rethinking their support, saying it’s clear the infrastructure bill is linked to the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package. That package would expand a variety of social programs, tackle climate change and also add further investments in infrastructure.

Dive insight:

Democrats are trying to move the bills in tandem to assuage progressives in their party who won’t vote for the infrastructure bill without the larger economic package. Centrists Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) are holding up the infrastructure bill in order to negotiate a smaller reconciliation package, which they say is too costly. 

The 2,700-page Senate bill contains $550 billion in new infrastructure spending over the next five years, and represents the largest new federal investment in the country’s streets, bridges and highways in decades. It includes $110 billion for improvements to roads and bridges, and $66 billion for passenger and freight rail projects. IIJA passed the Senate on Aug. 10.

Besides funding, a major impediment to construction projects is permitting delays. Permit reviews can involve up to 30 statutes and a dozen departments and agencies, and a helpful but little-discussed element inside the bill called One Federal Decision (OFD) aims to streamline and shorten the process from up to 10 years to two years, The Hill reported. However, it’s not clear if OFD will end up in the final version of the bill.

Construction industry leaders vary on their stance regarding details of the bill, but broadly voiced support for it and frustration about the delay.

“While other countries are making investments in their future, we are letting politics steal this opportunity to move forward. It does not have to be this way. This comprehensive bill would bring relief to communities facing strained power grids, aging bridges, leaking water pipes, and spotty broadband,” said Tom Smith, executive director, American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) in a press release

“We urge the House to pass this bipartisan, commonsense legislation today to create jobs, make goods and services move more quickly and reliably, and make American communities more climate-resilient. Our infrastructure bill has come due, and now is the time to act.”

According to an American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) Sept. 24 newsline statement, “ARTBA and allies are working to reinforce support with Republican offices by highlighting the economic benefits each state would see through the IIJA’s enactment and dispelling falsehoods about the bill’s contents and process.”

Associated Builders and Contractors generally supports the infrastructure bill but expressed concern about the reconciliation package.

“ABC continues to monitor any new developments on the bipartisan infrastructure deal and update members accordingly, and we do remain concerned with the president’s insistence on tying the bipartisan negotiated bill to the partisan reconciliation package,” said Kristen Swearingen, ABC vice president of legislative and political affairs. 

“ABC is continuing to meet with members of Congress and urge them to oppose dangerous tax hikes and costly labor policies that have been proposed for inclusion in reconciliation.”

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