UPDATE: The Senate and House each passed the two-year bill Friday morning, Feb. 9. It was signed by President Trump, ending a brief government shutdown.
By Dean Franks, senior vice president, congressional relations, ARTBA
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) Feb. 7 announced a deal on federal spending levels that would increase defense and discretionary spending by nearly $300 billion over the next two years. Included in the discretionary spending is $20 billion ($10 billion each for FY 2018 and FY 2019) in additional infrastructure funding beyond what was appropriated for FY 2017.
How the $20 billion will be used remains to be determined, but congressional staff involved in the negotiations confirmed to ARTBA the spending would likely be for non-Highway Trust Fund-supported programs, such as transit capital projects, the TIGER grants program, water infrastructure and rural broadband. The relationship between these resources and President Donald Trump’s proposed $1.5 trillion infrastructure package is unclear.
The $20 billion infrastructure funding comes as part of a larger agreement between House and Senate leadership to increase spending in FY 2018 and FY 2019 beyond the agreed budget caps put in place as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 for appropriation levels through FY 2023. The deal also includes emergency spending for areas stricken by hurricanes and other disasters in 2017; funding to tackle the opioid crisis; and increases the debt ceiling beyond this fall’s midterm elections.
See the Senate overview of the proposal.
While a deal has been agreed to by congressional leaders, successful floor votes in the Senate and House still need to be taken before the package heads to President Trump for his signature.
The federal government has been operating under a series of continuing resolutions (CR), or temporary spending deals, at FY 2017 levels since October, with the current one set to expire midnight Feb. 8. The Senate will likely take up the package and include another short-term CR, lasting only a few weeks, to give House and Senate appropriators time to finish their work on a final FY 2018 spending package. That deal is expected to include spending for highway programs at the FAST Act-authorized levels for FY 2018, a $900 million increase over FY 2017. It is in this final FY 2018 package where the details of the $10 billion in additional infrastructure funding will be resolved.
Once the Senate passes the new CR with the budget caps agreement, it will go to the House, where passage is less certain. Conservative Republicans are expected to oppose the plan and Democrats are threatening to withhold support unless Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) agrees to take up immigration legislation.
ARTBA will continue to update members of the ongoing fiscal drama and advocate for, at a minimum, full FAST Act funding in the final appropriations package of the year.