Senate

Bipartisan group of senators introduces surface transportation bill

A bipartisan group of senators Saturday announced it is introducing a bill to provide new funding for transportation priorities as Congress debates a broader infrastructure package.

Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), the top two lawmakers on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, along with Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) announced a surface transportation reauthorization bill that will be marked up by the panel on Wednesday.

The Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act of 2021 would establish new baseline funding of $303.5 billion for Department of Transportation programs to support highways, roads and bridges.

The bill comes after the prior authorization for surface transportation programs expired in 2020 and Congress greenlighted a one-year extension that will expire at the end of September. 

“I’m proud to join with my colleagues in crafting a bipartisan bill that invests in our nation’s transportation infrastructure at a historic high level, and in doing so, helps create jobs, curbs our carbon emissions, and expands opportunities for the American people,” Carper said in a statement.

“From the beginning of this process, I have expressed my desire to work together across the aisle to develop a bipartisan solution to address our nation’s infrastructure challenges. Our bill unveiled tonight accomplishes this. Not only will this comprehensive, bipartisan legislation help us rebuild and repair America’s surface transportation system, but it will also help us build new transportation infrastructure,” Capito said of the bill.

“These critical investments will help to provide economic opportunities now and for future generations,” Capito added. 

The bill’s introduction and markup come as Democrats, along with the White House, negotiate with Republicans on a broader infrastructure package. Thus far, talks have failed to produce a breakthrough.

President Biden first introduced his $2.25 trillion American Jobs Plan, which Republicans panned as too expensive and a deviation from “traditional infrastructure.” After Republicans, led by Capito, came back with a counterproposal of under $600 billion, the White House responded with a revised package with a price tag of $1.7 trillion.

That figure still appeared too high for the GOP, with a spokesperson for Capito calling it “well above the range of what can pass Congress with bipartisan support.” 

“There continue to be vast differences between the White House and Senate Republicans when it comes to the definition of infrastructure, the magnitude of proposed spending, and how to pay for it,” said Kelley Moore, a spokeswoman for Capito.

The infrastructure package highlighted already broad partisan divides in the Senate, with progressives saying the White House should push its original package through without GOP support, while centrists like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) say bipartisanship is required for the legislation. 

Carper suggested Saturday that the surface transportation bill is a step toward passing Biden’s package. 

“We must reauthorize the surface transportation bill before its current authorization expires in September: it is a vital foundation for President Biden’s American Jobs Plan. I look forward to continuing to work to transform our nation’s infrastructure and equip our economy for the future,” he said.

Tags Ben Cardin Joe Biden Joe Manchin Kevin Cramer Shelley Moore Capito Tom Carper

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