That’s why there’s a bipartisan bill being considered on the floor at this moment, a bill that prioritizes the status quo of road-building and fossil fuel dependency over the essential investment in always cash-starved transit agencies. Roads are getting $110 billion and public transit $39 billion. That’s more than has ever been dedicated to transit, but that’s essentially maintenance levels of funding, not growth.
That’s got House Democrats—who have already completed a transportation and water funding bill—frustrated and disappointed, since their work has been shunted aside, but mostly because it doesn’t answer the demand of climate change. “From what I can tell, this is a largely status quo and highway-centric bill,” Oregon Democrat and House Transportation Chair Peter DeFazio told Politico. “Ultimately, we need a bill that goes bigger, bolder, and takes advantage of this once-in-a-generation opportunity to catapult our infrastructure into the modern era and beyond.” This bill does not do that.
It’s unclear whether the companion budget resolution and reconciliation bill Schumer and Budget Chair Bernie Sanders are constructing will be able to correct any of the failures of this bill. Unfortunately, it likely won’t include any of the hard infrastructure funding that should be enhanced. The likeliest way for adequate funding to meet those needs would come from the failure of the bipartisan bill—and that could still happen—and the inclusion of the House bill into the reconciliation package. It could happen because there’s still no guarantee that there will be 10 Republican votes for the bipartisan bill.
McConnell and team are trying their best to slow-walk the process. On Monday, McConnell said the bills is a “good and important jumping off point” for infrastructure, but just that: a beginning. He wants a “robust” amendment process, which means endless Republican amendments not constrained by “any artificial timetable.” He weaponized the process itself—President Biden’s desire for this bipartisan effort to succeed—by saying, “Infrastructure is exactly the kind of subject that Congress should be able to address across the aisle.” When McConnell is talking about the bipartisanship ship, he means Democratic capitulation.
He’s got back up among his Republicans. “We shouldn’t sacrifice adequate time on this bill merely because the Democratic leader would like to spend next week jamming a 100% partisan piece of legislation through the United States Senate,” Thune said on Monday. (That’s the other Republican besides Graham who was hanging out with Manchin and team on the boat this weekend.) Schumer wants the bipartisan bill dealt with this week so that the Senate can move quickly to the larger, $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill. He does have tepid support in that from Manchin, who said, “It would be nice to do that.”
Manchin also indicated that he would vote to move the budget resolution forward as soon as next week. “I told them I would do that and we would go from there,” he said Tuesday. That would mean voting to move forward on the budget resolution, the mechanism to allow for the reconciliation bill, and then recessing and resuming that work in September when Congress also has to pass a government funding bill to avert a shutdown at the beginning of October—the new fiscal year—and also has to either suspend or increase the debt ceiling.
In the meantime, Senate Democrats are trying to figure out where the $3.5 trillion for the reconciliation bill—all that critical economic recovery stuff to actually help people—will come from. “We’re gonna pay for $3.5 trillion,” Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, chair of the Finance Committee, told Politico. “We expect to be working all through the summer.”
The Iraq War, by the way, has cost the nation nearly $2 trillion. Congress didn’t insist that the war had be paid for to be waged. If the tax cuts in the GOP Tax Scam of 2017 are not repealed or allowed to expire, it could cost the nation $2.3 trillion over the next 10 years. That passed in a reconciliation bill with only Republican votes.