Hoyer urges conference talks on bipartisan infrastructure bill

Hoyer urges conference talks on bipartisan infrastructure bill
© Greg Nash

For weeks, Rep. Peter DeFazioPeter Anthony DeFazioThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden sticks to his Afghanistan deadline Biden commends Pelosi for 'masterful' leadership Overnight Energy: Democrats tout new report to defend KeystoneXL cancellation MORE (D-Ore.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has been howling for cross-chamber negotiations on infrastructure spending to ensure that climate provisions aren't excluded from a final deal.

On Tuesday, DeFazio found a powerful ally in Rep. Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerGOP leader taking proxy voting fight to Supreme Court Lobbying world Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by the American Petroleum Institute — Feds target illegal gas practices MORE (D-Md.), the House majority leader, who is also calling for conference talks between the House and Senate to fill gaps in any bipartisan agreement emerging from the Senate.

Hoyer called climate change an "existential threat" to the globe, knocking the Senate for largely excluding such provisions from the package, which remains under negotiation by a bipartisan group of senators.

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"The Senate has limited itself essentially to infrastructure and ignored the consequences — the relationship — between climate and the transportation issues with which we're dealing in infrastructure. So I would hope we would have a conference. I think we need to go to conference; we need to resolve the differences," Hoyer told reporters.

The House, Hoyer added, is not ready to swallow just anything the Senate might send over.

"The fact is, we're not in a take-it-or-leave-it psychology at this point in time," he said. "I don't know when the Senate is going to act. But we hope when they do act they act after consideration of Mr. DeFazio's, and the House's, concerns."

The comments arrive as Senate negotiators are struggling to finalize a massive infrastructure package, even after weeks of tense negotiations and promised resolutions.

DeFazio has sponsored a $715 billion water and infrastructure package, which passed through the House earlier this month, and he's been increasingly critical of the Senate negotiators for excluding certain House provisions from their framework.

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He's fighting for conference talks in order ensure that those provisions — many of them policy changes focused on climate change and economic justice — aren't left on the cutting room floor. But he faces a tough road ahead, as the Biden administration is racing to secure an infrastructure victory — the top domestic priority of the president — and doesn't want to jeopardize a potential Senate deal with additional House demands.

Hoyer, however, said he's been in discussions with the Senate negotiators, who have DeFazio's concerns on their radar.

"They understand Mr. DeFazio's concerns. Very frankly, some of them are sympathetic to those concerns," Hoyer said. "And I'm hopeful that we can resolve those differences in the very near term. So, we'll see what they do."

Although there's lingering uncertainty surrounding the specific policies within the infrastructure bill, the House strategy is more clear. Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money: Democrats get to the hard part Biden discusses agenda with Schumer, Pelosi ahead of pivotal week Stefanik in ad says Democrats want 'permanent election insurrection' MORE (D-Calif.) has vowed that the House will not consider a Senate infrastructure bill before the Senate also passes a larger, Democratic package of social welfare benefits and environmental programs — a package they plan to move through a reconciliation procedure that precludes the need for any Republican votes.

Hoyer endorsed that strategy again Tuesday.

"I think that's still her position and so that's still our position," Hoyer said. "I would add, I think the Senate Democratic leadership wants to do that."