Last night, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee passed H.R. 2, the Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation (INVEST) in America Act by a voice vote after agreeing to the Chairman’s amendment in the nature of a substitute by a partisan vote of 35 to 25. The final vote came after two days and 24 hours of debate that included the consideration of 177 amendments, of which 34 Republican amendments and 23 Democratic amendments were adopted.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced yesterday that they are going to merge several other bills with the INVEST Act and bring it to the House floor for a vote the week of June 29. The combined $1.5T Moving Forward Act will include the INVEST Act plus $100 billion to promote competition for broadband internet infrastructure to unserved and underserved rural, suburban, and urban communities; $25B for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund; $40B in new wastewater infrastructure; $70B for clean energy projects (including upgrading the electric grid and making it more resilient); $100B to upgrade schools in impoverished districts; $100B for affordable housing; $30B to upgrade hospitals, community health centers, clinical laboratories and Native American health facilities; $3B for shovel-ready projects to restore Great Lakes and coastal habitats and marine ecosystems; and $25B for equipment upgrades at the U.S. Postal Service.
The big unanswered question is how to pay for it. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richie Neal (D-MA) has indicated that he will “lean on our tax code,” reinstate Build America Bonds and Advance Refunding Bonds, and increase and expand the issuance of Private Activity Bonds. Speaker Pelosi said that “with the interest rates where they are now, there’s never been a better time for us to go big.” One financing option that is not being discussed is raising the gas tax or imposing other fees. With the election less than five months away, both of these options would be a difficult sell to any members, regardless of their party affiliation.