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NUCA Political Insiders Report 4/26/2019

 

As Congress wraps up its two week recess, now is a good time to look ahead to at what might be in store for infrastructure over the next few weeks.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced that they will be meeting with President Trump next week on April 30th to discuss infrastructure. With this meeting, Pelosi said that they’ll be looking “to talk about what the prospect is for the size in terms of resources and scope of what that might be,” for infrastructure. During the Democrats’ Legislative Retreat earlier this month, Speaker Pelosi said that she would seek at least $1 trillion, and up to $2 trillion, for infrastructure spending. For his part, President Trump’s FY2020 budget called for at least $1 trillion in infrastructure spending, but only $200 billion of this would be from the federal government. Furthermore, this proposal didn’t identify a specific funding source.

Important members of the House and Senate are also starting to express their views about what the scope of an infrastructure package should be and how it should be paid for. As we expected, there seems to be a difference of opinion between the two chambers.

Here are some of the important lawmakers that will have significant influence over infrastructure, and what they’ve said so far:

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) – Speaker Pelosi has indicated that infrastructure will be a priority, but has not offered many specifics. She will be working to balance the desires of her caucus, including action on climate change and other potentially controversial items, with what will be needed to work with Republicans in Congress and the President.
  • House T&I Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) – Rep. Defazio wants to do a broad infrastructure package, but he hasn’t said what exactly this would look like or how it would be paid for. He has personally expressed his support for a gas tax increase, but has said that House leadership hasn’t revealed how they want to address infrastructure or pay for it. In summary, he seems to want to get something big done, but it’s not clear yet if the pieces will fall into place for him to do so.
  • House T&I Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO) – Rep. Graves has been a vocal supporter of transitioning to a vehicle miles traveled (VMT) tax for the Highway Trust Fund, and has been much less enthusiastic about a gas tax increase. He believes that the power of the gas tax will continue to decline, and so it doesn’t make sense to take a politically challenging vote if it doesn’t lead to a long term solution.
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) – Majority Leader McConnell has been relatively quiet on infrastructure issues. While he will be an important player if a package starts to materialize, it seems that for now he is leaving the issue to the committees of jurisdiction (detailed below).
  • Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY) – Sen. Barasso has indicated that he wants his committee to address surface transportation reauthorization, but doesn’t seem too interested in a more comprehensive infrastructure package. He has also ruled out a gas tax increase as a way to find funding.
  • Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS) – Sen. Wicker has said that the gas tax is a “grown-up” way to deal with infrastructure needs, and has expressed his displeasure with the Trump administration’s lack of a specific way to pay for its infrastructure proposal.

With this wide range of opinions, it will be challenging to get everyone on the same page for a final package. Regardless, it is encouraging that members are continuing to talk about this issue and seem to want to get something done.

Both the House T&I Committee and Senate EPW Committee are soliciting feedback from members about what they’d like to see in an infrastructure package, and are expected to hold more hearings in May. Overall, there is still certainly a good opportunity to get something done, but we will start to see quickly whether something will come together. House leadership has said they want to consider infrastructure on the floor in late spring or early summer. Therefore, our Washington Summit will provide an excellent opportunity to influence these issues.

Bryce Mongeon
Director of Government Relations
NUCA--Representing Utility & Excavation Contractors
bryce@nuca.com | www.nuca.com | 703.358.9300

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