Washington Waves
Washington Waves

Biden Signs Trillion-Dollar Infrastructure Bill

Washington, D.C.—President Joe Biden signed his trillion-dollar hard infrastructure bill into law and then hit the road to promote its impact on the lives of Americans.

Ports and waterways were part of that administration-wide sales job expected to send Vice President Kamala Harris, members of the cabinet and other key members of the administration across the nation.

“The bipartisan bill is going to mobilize our ports and our airports and freight rail to make it easier for companies to get goods to market, reduce supply chain bottlenecks we’re experiencing now,” Biden said at a bridge in New Hampshire in need of major repairs.

Ahead of the president’s trip to Detroit, National Economic Council Director Brian Deese and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan wrote an op-ed in the Detroit Free Press outlining how the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will bolster America’s global economic competitiveness.

Ports “are the lifeblood of strong supply chains” along with roads, bridges, trains and airports, Deese and Sullivan stated, citing the $17 billion in the new law that will improve infrastructure at coastal ports, inland ports and waterways.

Biden also announced he had named Mitch Landrieu, a former lieutenant governor of Louisiana and mayor of New Orleans, implementation coordinator to “make sure every penny is spent where it’s supposed to go in a timely fashion,” the same job the president said he had in the Obama administration.

Landrieu and Deese were appointed co-chairmen of an Infrastructure Implementation Task Force created by an executive order signed by the president.

Biden signed the bill into law in front of an audience of approximately 800 that included members of Congress, governors, mayors, state and local elected officials, labor leaders and business leaders.

Afterward, the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) highlighted the $5 billion in direct federal funding provided for seaports by the law with billions more available for port-related and port-eligible projects.

Because the U.S. also must prepare its port system for steadily increasing freight volumes, international competition and severe weather, AAPA stated, shipping must compete and coordinate with other industries, such as trucking and rail, for the vast discretionary federal funding in the law to finance projects of importance.

The American Waterways Operators (AWO) also applauded the new law, citing the “$2.5 billion of 100 percent federal funding for inland waterways construction and major rehabilitation projects, $4 billion for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operations and maintenance, and an increase in funding for the Port Infrastructure Development Program from $230 million in FY21 to $455 million a year for the next five years.”

AWO also said creation of the Made in America Office works to ensure that federal procurement processes support American workers and businesses and maintain the integrity of the Jones Act.

 “This legislation demonstrates the bipartisan support for modernizing our nation’s infrastructure and will provide critical funding to keep America’s vital waterborne commerce moving,” AWO President and CEO Jennifer Carpenter said.

Busy December Agenda

Congress appears to be veering toward an impasse on how to keep the federal government funded past December 3 when the current stopgap measure expires.

That matter is just one item on a busy congressional agenda that also includes a debt limit increase, acting on President Biden’s Build Back Better proposal and passing an annual National Defense Authorization Act.

“That’s a huge agenda for December and the end of November,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said.

“We aim to get it done.”

Democrats want to avoid using another continuing resolution to keep the government funded.

“Every additional continuing resolution and delay will deprive our families, small businesses, communities and military of the certainty they need,” House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) said in a statement that also was released by her subcommittee chairs.

“And a full-year continuing resolution, which some Republicans have expressed openness to, would be nothing short of catastrophic.”

Republicans want an agreement on top-line budget numbers, especially on defense spending, as well as language they say has been in appropriations bills for years.

Without an agreement, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he expects to see another continuing resolution to keep the government funded into next year.

Supply Chain Innovation Teams

The Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) announced that six Supply Chain Innovation Teams will be convened by Commissioner Rebecca Dye to improve the process and timing of return and delivery of containers to marine terminals.

Convening the teams as the fact-finding officer for Fact Finding 29, Dye has goals of allowing truckers to return an empty container to a terminal and pick up a loaded container, referred to as a “double move,” and bringing certainty and predictability to the earliest return date process to address exporter complaints about the unreliability of the deadline for getting cargo to a terminal.

According to the FMC, the teams will focus their efforts at the ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach, New York and New Jersey and will be composed of executives from each ocean carrier operating in an alliance and from the marine terminal operators that service them.

Their first meetings will be held December 1, the FMC stated.