Waterways Journal Editorial
WJ Editorial

Not There Yet On Infrastructure

Members of the Senate have agreed to talk about a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. By a vote of 67 to 32, seven more than needed, senators began the legislative process to consider H.R. 3684, the House bill chosen to be used as the vehicle.

According to a White House fact sheet, the deal “invests $17 billion in port infrastructure,” or $1 billion more than the $16 billion announced for ports and waterways weeks ago, when a bipartisan group of senators and President Joe Biden first announced an agreement that was later postponed.

The bill faces further debate, and it is by no means certain that it will become law. It will advance along one track that requires a supermajority of at least 60 votes. One uncertainty is the promise House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi made to tie the fate of the “hard” infrastructure bill to that of a second, $3.5 trillion bill containing the rest of the Democrats’ wish list. That bill could be sent to the House with a simple majority under a separate process, with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking any tie in the Senate. 

Meanwhile, a July 20 letter addressed to the director of the Office of Management and Budget by six Republican senators asked a number of pointed questions about language that somehow found its way into what was supposed to be a budget bill. 

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The letter, signed by Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas), Roger Wicker (Miss.), John Cornyn (Texas), Dan Sullivan (Alaska), Bill Cassidy (La.) and John Kennedy (La.) cited language in the draft budget for the Corps of Engineers that states that a “key objective” of the FY2020 budget is not to fund “work that directly subsidizes fossil fuels including work that lowers the cost of production, lowers the cost of consumption or raises the revenues retained by the producers of fossil fuels.”

The six senators asked the OMB director to provide a complete list of every example of similar language included in the budget purporting to prohibit funding of projects that facilitate fossil fuels, and it also asks for definitions of each phrase. Most importantly, they also point out that this draft budget language “goes far beyond establishing priorities through the budget process” as a budget is supposed to do, and usurps policy prerogatives belonging to Congress alone, not the executive branch.