Lawmakers offer competing priorities for infrastructure plans

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Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle expressed enthusiasm for a potential infrastructure package under the Biden administration Friday, while offering competing priorities for what the legislation should include.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), speaking at The Hill’s “Reset 2021: A New American Start” event, stressed that infrastructure “has to be a national effort.”

Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), speaking at the same event, argued that the benefits of infrastructure can be achieved with funding mechanisms that don’t include an increase in the federal gas tax.

“I think we need to pivot to something a little more equitable, something that brings in those dollars from individuals using the roads and bridges,” Graves told The Hill’s Steve Clemons.

“We’ve been working on an infrastructure package for some time … I am hoping we will be able to do something.”

Congressional optimism for action on an infrastructure is running high after four years of fits and starts during the Trump administration. Bipartisan support for infrastructure never gained traction, due in large part to differences over the price tag and whether environment-related provisions should be included.

Democratic lawmakers weighed into that debate again Friday, with Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), a member of the Climate Solutions Caucus, saying there should be bipartisan support for implementing a carbon fee.

“Polluters ought to pay. They should pay for the carbon they put into the atmosphere,” he said.

Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.), a member of the Joint Economic Committee, emphasized at the event that there needs to be targeted spending when it comes to infrastructure funding.

“A lot of the lobbying population still see the world of infrastructure as pouring concrete. For many of us, we want to say, ‘What is the ultimate definition that is actually good for our communities? What actually creates the most economic growth? It’s going to be a combination of technology, smart design, and pouring that concrete,’ ” Schweikert said.

Overall, though, there was bipartisan support to advance an infrastructure package of some kind in the 117th Congress. 

“Infrastructure is something that we inherently know is important and something that needs to be done but coupled with the pandemic and our need to increase economic growth. Infrastructure just seems to be a natural mechanism by which we can do that,” Del. Stacey Plaskett (D-Virgin Islands) said.

Tags David Schweikert Peter DeFazio Sam Graves Stacey Plaskett Ted Deutch

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