Lawmakers say infrastructure efforts are falling victim to deepening partisan divide

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Partisan politics and stalled negotiations over another COVID-19 relief bill are impeding progress toward much needed infrastructure bills, lawmakers said Thursday.

“We’ve got to do more, and the only way to do more is to get politics out of infrastructure once again,” Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) said at The Hill’s “America’s Agenda: Infrastructure” event. “Unfortunately, that’s what killed any long-term infrastructure bill that we could’ve passed to address our crumbling roads and bridges.”

Davis, a four-term lawmaker and the top Republican of the House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee on highways and transit, said he witnessed “bipartisan cooperation in the past” for legislation like the Highway Reauthorization Act, but months-long pandemic relief negotiations are worsening relations between the two parties are having an effect on issues like infrastructure.

“We saw the Highway Reauthorization becoming a partisan bill for the first time in my congressional career, and it’s disappointing,” he told The Hill’s Steve Clemons.

Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.),the ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee who also spoke at the event, expressed a desire to see a standalone bill for the aviation industry.

“Right now in the middle of this pandemic, we have an aviation crisis going on too, so that has to be a priority,” he said. “We need to get it done and we need to get it done right away. Unfortunately, politics are playing a role in that process, so it’s kind of hung up in these negotiations when it comes to the overall COVID relief.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said he does not want infrastructure legislation considered as part of a potential coronavirus relief package.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), who’s head of the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, said infrastructure projects are uniquely suited to aid the economy in the pandemic.

“What would give our economy more of a kick than an infrastructure bill now?” she said. “You can do infrastructure without close quarters, one of the few kinds of work you can do now.”

Norton criticized Republicans who voted against the $1.5 trillion Moving Forward Act, an infrastructure bill that included projects designed to address climate change. The bill also would provide funding for roads and bridges, while requiring states to adhere to carbon emission decreases and other climate mitigation measures in order to receive funding.

“Every Republican in the House voted against our bill,” she said. “They were largely opposed to the environmental sections, yet we are in a time when everyone is focused on climate change and it would be a fundamental error not to begin to take some steps on environmental issues.”

The White House threatened to veto the Moving Forward Act, saying it should eliminate or reduce environmental reviews and arguing it wouldn’t provide enough resources for rural America.

Davis said that the divided behavior of the House is “not good for how our country should govern,” but he predicts that progress on infrastructure bills can be made after the election.

“I’m optimistic that once we get through this whole election, we come back in the lame duck session, that it’s good common sense policies like this that politics will frankly be pushed aside and this will be pushed through.”

Tags Aviation Climate change COVID-19 relief Eleanor Holmes Norton Environment Infrastructure Mitch McConnell Rodney Davis Sam Graves Transportation

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