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What’s going on in Washington?

Uncertainty surrounding passage of critical infrastructure bill is growing

As Congress works to pass two separate funding bills while dealing with the fallout of Afghanistan and severe weather across the country, the trucking industry sits and waits. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The days in Washington, DC, seem to fly by as we barrel towards the Sept. 30 expiration deadline of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. Transaction has slowed to a near standstill surrounding the uncertainty of the votes of moderate Senators from purple states who are stuck between a rock and hard place politically.

House Democrats are approaching the upcoming infrastructure bill and the reconciliation legislation in a “two-tracked” approach. Both sides of the aisle have their own style of negotiation; however, the standstill originates from the sentiment that either both of the bills pass or neither do. In this quid pro quo style of negotiation, no one escapes unscathed – especially those who are dependent on one or both bills being pushed through.

This means that the Republicans would like to vote on the Senate-passed infrastructure bill before they consider the Democrats’ proposed growth of the social safety net – a high priority of the president’s economic policy. Democrats on the other hand pledge to wait until the Senate approves both bills to vote on either one. This leaves more moderate Senators who reflect the party-line-bucking sentiment that got them elected with a problem.

This decision will determine the fate of the infrastructure bill. Reelection is always on the forefront of any politician’s mind, and with midterms just around the corner in 2022, moderate Senators have much to think about before casting their ballots.

With this dilemma of the moderate Senators comes the uncertainty of whether either bill will be passed or if they will die off in the hands of time. With the deadline fast approaching, many are wondering what will ultimately happen. In the end, we won’t know until either they cast their ballots in the Senate chamber or the Sept. 30 deadline comes and goes with no action taken.

Additionally, Congress is facing several high-priority issues ranging from the frantic scramble in Afghanistan to the recent hurricanes, just to name a few. The disaster caused by Hurricane Ida poses a unique delay because it has inspired amendments and rewrites to the infrastructure bill which are targeting afflicted states that have been repeatedly hit by these weather events.

With the time that was initially thought to be spent on resolving the issues surrounding the infrastructure bill being appropriated to these more urgent issues, it seems as though the gridlock will remain. It is unfortunate, but most likely these headline issues will get Congress’s attention before infrastructure does.

The Truckload Carriers Association will continue to monitor this common political gridlock but remains hopeful that movement prevails, especially in the reauthorization of the Obama administration’s 2015 FAST Act. Until such action is taken – or the timer runs out – we are keeping a watchful eye out for an opportunity to move forward.