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THE WAIT IS OVER: The infrastructure bill is out. The Senate published the text on Sunday of a bipartisan infrastructure agreement that has been moving through the process and could be up for a final vote as soon as this week.
The compromise legislation would spend big money on highways, transit, rail and more, but it will still likely frustrate progressives, who are pushing for policy priorities like “fix it first” for highways and the broader climate goals of the House’s surface transportation bill. Pro subscribers can read more from our team breaking down some of the numbers.
A key addition: A $118 billion bailout of the Highway Trust Fund from the Treasury’s general fund, essentially an inevitability given lawmakers’ inability to agree on user-fee reforms or increases, but one that has largely gone under the radar and was slipped into the bill text at the last minute.
A shifting balance of power: An overarching trend of the legislation is concentrating transportation policy decision-making in the federal government. “If this BIF deal holds, it would put just a staggering amount of money in the hands of [Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg] to distribute via [DOT’s] own selection of projects (competitive grants) instead of the traditional formula-based distribution to states and cities. Just staggering,” noted Jeff Davis of the Eno Center for Transportation.
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IN THE HOUSE: House Transportation Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) has backed off slightly from his fiery frustration over the Senate talks, but he’s still pushing for his surface transportation bill to be included in the negotiations. “I’m expressing a strong desire that should the Senate pass a bill, that we should conference that bill and work out our differences,” DeFazio said at a news conference Friday. “We’ve already passed a major bill in the House. It has all the objectives that the president and the White House set out for me. And I want to make certain that they’re in the final package. That would best be accomplished through a conference.”
Reminder: White House officials have dismissed the idea of a conference, privately warning Democrats that they don’t want to risk delaying or blowing up the bill.
TV TIME: Buttigieg took to ABC’s Sunday show, where he was first asked about Biden’s vaccine mandate for federal workers and the eviction moratorium, before eventually talking transpo. Buttigieg gave his standard pitch for both the BIF and the reconciliation package to follow. “We believe in both of these packages … and the president has made clear that he supports them both and looks forward to signing them both,” Buttigieg said. “But I don’t want to give up on the idea that at least some Republicans could vote for the second bill, too.”
MAILBAG: More than 150 families that have been affected by car crashes and other vehicle incidents wrote to President Joe Biden with an op-ed in his hometown paper Friday asking him to prioritize safety in infrastructure legislation. “As Congress moves toward passage of one of your key priorities — transportation and infrastructure legislation — we urge you to ensure that critical vehicle safety remedies are included in the bill you sign into law,” they wrote, appealing to his own tragic personal experience with a car crash. They said that the House’s surface transportation bill, with a requirement for most new vehicles to be equipped with automatic emergency braking, impaired driving prevention technology, stronger seatbacks, and a backseat detection and alert system, should be a roadmap for safety legislation.
NOMS ON THE WAY: The Senate Commerce Committee will vote on several transportation nominees this week, sending them one step closer to beefing up DOT and two independent transportation agencies. Barring any last minute surprises, the committee will approve Annie Petsonk to serve as assistant secretary of Transportation for aviation and international affairs, Robert Hampshire to be assistant secretary for research and technology and chief science officer at DOT, Jennifer Homendy to chair the NTSB and Karen Hedlund to join the STB.
— “Manchin: No guarantee reconciliation package will pass.” POLITICO.
— “N.Y.’s transit system could receive $10 billion in infrastructure deal.” The New York Times.
— “Ford’s utility man drives its commercial-vehicle strategy.” The Wall Street Journal.
— “The quiet Biden-GOP talks behind the infrastructure deal.” The Washington Post.
— “’David vs Goliath’ — Venice ban may not end cruise ship battle.” Reuters.