Sen. Kerry sees progress on his bill for an infrastructure bank

He said he does not see any special-interest opposition to the legislation at this point, and noted that it is backed by both the AFL-CIO and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which are rarely on the same side of an issue.

Business Roundtable President John Engler made a pitch for the bank at the event, as did AFL-CIO Deputy Chief of Staff Thea Lee, who said the bill should include Buy America provisions.

Kerry also said that Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) has included the plan in the still-secret draft Senate budget resolution. The bank would cost $10 billion, he said. 

Warner told The Hill that the senators might need to line up more than four sponsors before Finance is ready to mark up the legislation. He said he is reaching out to Republicans to try and find bipartisan support.

ADVERTISEMENT
“It is not a pie-in-the-sky, hastily thrown together ... concept,” Kerry said.

He said that the bill has been drafted to ensure members of Congress do not see it as creating a new entity like the troubled government-sponsored housing enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

“Dispel yourself of any notion this resembles Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac,” he said.

He said the deficit-cutting mood of Congress makes the case for a National Infrastructure Bank.

“In this environment we are not going to see big appropriations for infrastructure,” he said.

He blasted the current ban on congressional earmarks as “one of the dumbest things I have ever seen in my life.” The Massachusetts Democrat said the public hates secret earmarks but does not want member of Congress to have no ability to publicly direct funding to failed bridges and the like.

Kerry emphasized the bank would not give grants, and would be self-sustaining.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) has a bill that would create a more expanded version of the bank in the House. That bill would also have the ability to issue bonds, and scores higher in terms of cost, she said. The bill has only Democratic co-sponsors at this stage, but DeLauro said she has talked to Transportation Committee John Mica (R-Fla.) about finding a version the GOP can support.