What the path forward looks like for Biden’s infrastructure plan

Now that President Biden has released his infrastructure plan, Republican and Democratic leaders begin the difficult task of drafting legislation.

The American Jobs infrastructure plan included line items for agriculture and rural America, like broadband, upgrades for ports and waterways, and repairs for roads and bridges. However, what makes it into the final legislation depends on how Congress approaches it.

Former Congressman Bill Shuster says that a bipartisan bill would likely be smaller in total size, but would allow more flexibility for what is included.

According to Shuster, “They can do a lot more when it comes to policy. They can change policies, they can introduce new policies, they can do significant policy reworks, and, again, introduce new things.”

He says that earmarks, now called community project grants, could be once incentive used to bring rural lawmakers on board.

“When you have that kind of tool to use, you’ll get members buying in even if sometimes they may not like the policy, but they know it’s going to be very good for their state or very good for their district and they will reach a compromise,” Shuster states.

If Democratic leaders cannot drum up enough support for a bipartisan bill, they could consider using the process of budget reconciliation, which limits the type of spending in the bill but allows for a simple majority vote in the Senate.

“If they go the other route, a lot of those policies initiatives, they won’t be able to get into that bill but it could be a significantly larger bill in terms of money,” he explains.

Whichever method may be used, advocacy group, Transportation for America is calling on lawmakers to prioritize maintenance, safety, and access in any infrastructure legislation.

“We think that there is a way to say for any highway funds provided through reconciliation that we should prioritize maintenance,” TFA Director Scott Goldstein states. “We think there is a way to put some safety requirements on, for example, highway funds that are prioritized. So, some of this can be done, but the fundamental reforms, we think are necessary, probably can’t get accomplished in reconciliation and require the regular reauthorization process.”

President Joe Biden told his colleagues in Congress that he wants to see infrastructure legislation pass by summer.


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