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Big business bullish on infrastructure in 2021

U.S. Chamber optimistic Biden and Congress will prioritize road and bridge investment despite prospects for divided government

U.S. Chamber wants new Congress to prioritize road and bridge building in 2021. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

America’s big-business lobby considers the biggest priority for the new Congress and the incoming Biden administration in 2021 is to build back economic losses sustained by the COVID-19 pandemic with major infrastructure legislation.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is backing two Republican incumbent U.S. senators in Georgia who, if successful in runoff elections on Jan. 5, will allow Republicans to maintain control of the Senate. But the resulting divided legislature — Democrats maintained control of the U.S. House post-election — should not be a roadblock to getting an infrastructure deal done, the group contends.

“We know that there is skepticism about how a divided government might be able to come together on big things,” said Neil Bradley, the Chamber’s chief policy officer, during a post-election press conference Monday.

“We don’t share that skepticism. Particularly in times of economic stress, infrastructure has been one of those issues in which the parties have been able to overcome their differences and get something done, and we think that’s going to be true in 2021.”

Before the onset of the pandemic earlier this year, the economy grew without the help of a major infrastructure package that had been pushed by President Donald Trump and in varying degrees by Democratic and Republican lawmakers.

Looking ahead now, however, “We see a path to a governing coalition that is likely to produce more bipartisan legislation, and in doing that creating momentum for action that is likely to result in more legislation being enacted and more policies being changed than what the common wisdom dictates,” Bradley said.

On trade, the Chamber sees a Biden administration putting less emphasis on the use of tariffs in disputes, which it believes is positive for the economy and for U.S. manufacturers. “Tension with China is going to remain,” according to Bradley, “and the concerns regarding Chinese economic policy are bipartisan in nature. A Biden administration is likely to take a more multilateral approach in addressing their concerns with China.”

Before Biden and a new Congress begin work in 2021, Bradley urges lawmakers to negotiate a fourth pandemic relief package. Partisan differences over how much to include in the package have stalled those negotiations so far.

“But the disagreements that have separated the parties to date are trivial in comparison to the needs that exist on Main streets throughout this nation,” Bradley said. “As we head into these next weeks where there’s obviously a lot of attention on the new administration and the new Congress, we can’t divert our eyes from the need to get a Phase 4 bill done before the end of the year to support businesses and American families.”

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John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.