By Lauren Schapker, vice president of legislative affairs, ARTBA
A bipartisan group of four U.S. senators met Feb. 11 at the White House with President Joe Biden and the group discussed the importance of action this year on an infrastructure bill.
“I’ve been around long enough… that infrastructure wasn’t a Republican or a Democratic issue,” Biden said. He spoke about the need to repair bridges and improve road safety.
The Oval Office meeting included Senate Environment & Public Works (EPW) Committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.); EPW Ranking Member Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.); Small Business & Entrepreneurship Committee Chairman Ben Cardin (D-Md.); and Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.). They were joined by Vice President Kamala Harris and U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
The White House said it was the first of several meetings with key members of Congress and other stakeholders. The structure and investment levels in such a measure are among the key details to be developed in coming months.
Biden is expected to discuss his infrastructure investment ideas further in a joint address to the House and Senate, likely to take place in March after Congress completes work on the latest COVID-19 economic relief package. The current highway and public transit funding authorization expires Sept. 30.
“Our expectation is that we will be gathering input from Democrat and Republican senators on what the priorities should be in that surface transportation reauthorization,” Carper said Feb. 10. “We’re going to try to report this bill out this year in the month of May.”
Capito reiterated the committee’s track record of seeking “strong bipartisan solutions that address a wide variety of our nation’s top infrastructure needs.”
The House plans to advance infrastructure legislation similar to the $1.5 trillion package passed last summer. Transportation & Infrastructure Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) stressed the importance of capital investment in infrastructure during Jan. 28 remarks to the ARTBA Board.
“Lobby the heck out of your members of Congress and senators,” DeFazio told the board. “We can’t be timid about this surface transportation bill. It’s got to be big, and it must be long-term.”