House and White House Fighting for Highway Spending as Coronavirus Stimulus

Senate Republicans openly defiant about supporting citizens and states after bathing corporations in record stimulus spending

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With the largest U.S. government relief packages ever already signed into law – $2.8 trillion mostly devoted to keeping businesses, hospitals and medical care afloat through the coronavirus pandemic – the question of transportation and infrastructure funding remains in play.

 “Even though the global pandemic upended the congressional schedule as we know it, our committee has been pushing ahead with a surface transportation reauthorization bill and we hope to share more details in the coming weeks,” a spokeswoman for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee told Transport Topics.

Before the pandemic, transportation committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) had pointed to a March-April timeline for introducing a replacement for the 2015 FAST Act highway law, which expires Sept. 30. That bill would likely follow a five-year, $760 billion infrastructure policy blueprint House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s caucus unveiled in January.

The blueprint proposed $329 billion for highway programs, $105 billion for transit systems, $86 billion for investments in broadband, $60.5 billion for wastewater and other water infrastructure programs, and $55 billion for rail networks.

For several weeks, Trump has argued that injecting up to $2 trillion into the infrastructure network would assist with economic recovery. While Congress has approved for the president nearly $3 trillion for emergency recovery efforts, neither Pelosi nor Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have announced their intention to prioritize funding for infrastructure.

Senate Republicans are showing signs of being ready to put the country’s wallet away, now that the GOP’s biggest campaign donors have received trillions of dollars of stimulus. reports the President Trump and Democrats are signaling support for at least one more round of checks to Americans. GOP senators, however, say they aren’t sold yet on the need for a second round, and several are strongly opposed to the idea.

“Well people in hell want ice water too,” said Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), asked about another round of checks. “I mean, everybody has an idea and a bill, usually to spend more money. It’s like a Labor Day mattress sale around here.”

A spokesperson for Kennedy said the senator's comments were in reference to potential bills that would further increase state and local government funding, a topic that was discussed at length in the same interview with reporters.