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Bipartisan group of senators introduces surface transportation bill

Bipartisan group of senators introduces surface transportation bill
© Greg Nash

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 CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperThis week: Democrats face fractures in spending fight Progressives want to tighten screws beyond Manchin and Sinema Democrats wary of emerging bipartisan infrastructure deal MORE (D-Del.) and Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoGAO rules Biden freeze on border wall funds legal How Biden can get the infrastructure bill through Congress GOP senator introduces constitutional amendment to ban flag burning MORE (R-W.Va.), the top two lawmakers on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, along with Sens. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden on Putin: 'a worthy adversary' Antsy Democrats warn of infrastructure time crunch 'SECURE 2.0' will modernize retirement security for the post-COVID American workforce MORE (D-Md.) and Kevin CramerKevin John CramerGOP senator introduces constitutional amendment to ban flag burning Trump dismisses climate change, calls on Biden to fire joint chiefs Putin says Nord Stream 2 pipeline nearing completion MORE (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.

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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.

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President BidenJoe BidenMellman: Trump voters cling to 2020 tale FDA authorizes another batch of J&J vaccine Cotton warns of China collecting athletes' DNA at 2022 Olympics MORE 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 ManchinJoe ManchinProgressives rave over Harrison's start at DNC US, EU pledge to work together on climate amid reported dissension on coal Senate to hold hearing on DC statehood bill MORE (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.