Republicans urge states to ignore Biden administration infrastructure funding guidance
Top Senate Republicans are urging states to ignore the Biden administration’s guidance on how to utilize funding from the bipartisan infrastructure bill signed into law in November.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) penned a letter to governors on Wednesday encouraging them to ignore a December memo from the Federal Highway Administration that called for recipients of highway funding to take action on projects that enhance the conditions and safety of existing transportation infrastructure before proceeding with efforts to add new travel lanes.
Federal Highway Administration Deputy Administrator Stephanie Pollack wrote in the December memo that her agency would “implement policies and undertake actions to encourage—and where permitted by law, require—recipients of Federal highway funding to select projects that improve the condition and safety of existing transportation infrastructure within the right-of-way before advancing projects that add new general purpose travel lanes serving single occupancy vehicles.”
McConnell and Capito, however, say the bipartisan infrastructure bill does not give the Federal Highway Administration “the authority to dictate how states should use their federal formula funding, nor prioritizes public transit or bike paths over new roads and bridges.”
The top Republicans called the memo “an internal document” and said it “has no effect of law,” adding that “states should treat it as such.”
The GOP letter comes as Republicans and Democrats are looking at how to implement the funding in the infrastructure bill.
Some Democrats had previously tried to add guidance to the bill that outlined requirements for the use of federal money, including a restriction on expanding highways, but eventually abandoned the push when drafting a compromise bill with Republicans, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Democrats had sought to add such guidance as part of a broader effort to put more money into transportation that emits less carbon.
Biden signed the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill into law in November after months of negotiations between the White House and Capitol Hill. The legislation passed both the House and Senate in a bipartisan fashion, with 13 Republicans supporting the measure in the House and 19 GOP senators voting for the bill in the upper chamber.
A large part of the funds in the law, however, still need congressional approval through the annual appropriations bill, the Journal noted.
Congress had struggled to come to an agreement on a government spending bill, though Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), the vice chairman of the Appropriations Committee, announced on Wednesday that negotiators had reached a “breakthrough” agreement for the framework of an omnibus spending bill.