The House is preparing to merge several typically unrelated bills into one massive “infrastructure” package, doling out more than $1.5 trillion for everything from roads to education, housing, clean water, broadband and more.
Speaking with reporters Thursday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi gathered the heads of some of the largest House committees to discuss their pieces of the legislation, which she called “Moving America Forward.” She said she intends for the legislation, which contains a significant focus on green initiatives and climate resiliency, to pass the House before the July 4th recess.
It’s unclear, however, how — if at all — the bill will be paid for. House Ways and Means Chair Richard Neal (D-Mass.) implied that it would lean on bonding and deficit spending, at one point calling out President Donald Trump’s own call for a $2 trillion infrastructure investment.
“We propose Build America bonds, private activity bonds,” said Neal. “The president, as you know, has said $2 trillion of borrowed money — he staked out that position. We’re open to some discussions, negotiations. We think that by putting out our plan here, [there’s] time to have the conversation, time to negotiate.”
Beyond the spending issue, Republicans have already been highly critical of the surface transportation piece of the bill and its heavy emphasis on green infrastructure and climate resiliency, deriding it as just another fanciful iteration of a Green New Deal and complaining of being shut out of the process.
Pelosi acknowledged some of the partisan atmosphere, especially the challenge of bringing Senate Republicans on board.
“As you know, the Grim Reaper has said nothing is ever going through in the Senate,” said Pelosi, referring to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. But she said improving infrastructure is of “tremendous interest” across the political spectrum.
“When people see the legislation, and people see how it does affect their areas — this is not just a matter of transportation, it’s a matter of clean air, clean water,” said Pelosi. “So, we think that this will be nonpartisan, very bipartisan, and we look forward to working together — House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans, and the White House.”
She also suggested that, although previous coronavirus relief measures have focused on “mitigation,” this package will help the country with “recovery,” including by generating good-paying jobs and facilitating commerce.
A surface transportation bill, currently working its way through the House, appears to be the base of the legislation. It would authorize $494 billion over five years for roads, bridges and transit programs. That bill had been expected on the House floor around June 30.
The new legislative package also will contain what House Energy and Commerce Chair Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) characterized as $70 billion for “clean energy.” Pallone specifically mentioned upgrading the electric grid and making it more resilient, among other items.
He also said the legislation will contain $25 billion for drinking water programs, $35 billion for health care infrastructure and $100 billion for broadband, “which will get us to 100 percent coverage.”
The legislation is also expected to contain funding to upgrade schools, as well as for public housing— including $70 billion to address a capital backlog for public housing, $1 billion for climate resiliency upgrades to public housing and $5 billion for a housing trust fund that would support the creation of 60,000 new affordable housing units.
By Kathryn A. Wolfe