The bill is meant, in part, to address the expiration in September of a law authorizing spending on highways, transit and other transportation programs.
Backers, including Transportation Committee Chairman Peter A. DeFazio (D-Ore.), said the bill represents an ambitious, years-in-the-making push to buttress and expand aging infrastructure in a sustainable way. Supporters said it marks a departure from traditional surface transportation legislation because of its emphasis on maintaining roads and bridges, building transit and reducing transportation-related pollution, the nation’s top source of greenhouse gases causing climate change.
The bill’s passage “is proof that finally, there is a majority of us in Congress who won’t accept the status quo and instead are willing to fight for a new vision” that puts “millions of people to work in jobs that cannot be exported, while harnessing American-made materials, ingenuity, and innovation,” DeFazio said. “I challenge my Senate colleagues to join the House in thinking big and being bold on long-overdue investments not only in our infrastructure, but also in the communities and the people we all represent.”
House Republicans objected to the bill’s concentration on reducing carbon pollution and slammed the process that resulted in what they dismissed as the “My Way or the Highway” bill. Pelosi is seeking to “heap an irresponsible amount of debt onto our children instead of seeking market-driven, collaborative, bipartisan solutions to improve our infrastructure,” said Rep. Sam Graves (Mo.,) the ranking Republican on the House Transportation Committee.
The bill passed largely along party lines after days of debate and amendments, with three Republicans voting yes and two Democrats casting no votes.
The bill now goes to the Senate, where it drew immediate criticism from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)
“House Democrats appear addicted to pointless political theater,” McConnell said. “So naturally, this nonsense is not going anywhere in the Senate. It will just join the list of absurd House proposals that were only drawn up to show fealty to the radical left.”
The White House earlier this week said that while “the Administration supports some of the bill’s investments in transportation and broadband infrastructure,” the bill “is full of wasteful ‘Green New Deal’ initiatives.”
President Trump’s “advisers would recommend that he veto the bill” if it came to him, said the Office of Management and Budget’s “Statement of Administration Policy.”
Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, which passed a narrower, bipartisan transportation bill last July, called the House bill “a road to nowhere” and urged the House to “get serious about infrastructure.”
If the full Senate passes a transportation or other combined infrastructure bill, Congress could move to create a conference committee to seek to reconcile the diverging visions, congressional aides said. Or they could try to come to agreement on a temporary extension of the five-year transportation law, known as the Fast Act, that expires in September, though members from both parties say they oppose such a move.
Either would be complicated further by broad differences over how such infrastructure should be paid for, a disconnect that has stymied many plans in recent years, despite widespread bipartisan and popular support for addressing infrastructure needs.