UPDATED, July 2, 2020: The U.S. House of Representatives passed the $1.5 trillion Moving Forward Act in a 233-188 vote on Wednesday, mostly along party lines.
The bill centers on a nearly $500 billion package of green transportation measures, as part of the INVEST in America Act. In a statement, American Public Transportation Association (APTA) President and CEO Paul Skoutelas commended the vote "on behalf of the entire public transportation industry," saying the bill will "transform" public transit infrastructure.
"At a time when our economy desperately needs a boost, this bill will get projects off the ground and immediately create good-paying jobs that will get Americans back to work and ensure our communities keep moving," Skoutelas wrote.
The bill will now go to the Republican-controlled Senate, where approval may be challenging as many Republicans have ridiculed the "Green New Deal-style" bill, the New York Times reports. The White House has also opposed the bill, calling it "heavily biased against rural America" and "entirely debt-financed."
"Instead of seeking bipartisan solutions, this bill adds $1.5 trillion to the nation’s debt and disguises a heavy-handed and unworkable Green New Deal regime of new requirements as an infrastructure bill,’” said Rep. Sam Graves, R-MO, according to the Times.
- House Democrats have unveiled a $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill that includes almost $500 billion of green measures proposed as part of the Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America (INVEST in America) Act earlier this month.
- The bill, an expanded version of the Moving Forward Act proposed earlier this year, would also provide: $300 billion for structurally deficient bridges; $100 billion for facility upgrades at high-poverty schools; $100 billion for affordable housing infrastructure; $100 billion in broadband internet; $40 billion for wastewater infrastructure; $70 billion for the electric grid for more renewable energy and upgrades; $30 billion for hospitals and other healthcare infrastructure; and $3 billion for "shovel-ready" Great Lakes, coastal and marine projects.
- The current FAST (Fixing America's Surface Transportation) Act will expire Sept. 30, so Democrats and Republicans must come up with a plan to reauthorize funding. However, some Senate Republicans say that House Democrats have cut their Republican counterparts out of the bill-writing process.
During a press conference announcing the Moving Forward Act, lawmakers took aim at President Donald Trump's administration and its moves to waiver environmental regulations in the name of speeding up the infrastructure permitting process. Democrat Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon, chair of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said that the USDOT has not implemented reforms that are available to it and that waiving the National Environmental Policy Act process is not necessary.
The Trump administration has regularly waived environmental regulations for the construction of barriers at the U.S.-Mexico border, but most recently directed federal agencies to waive them and to take other actions in order to move infrastructure projects forward during the post-COVID-19 recovery.
Before the Moving America Forward Act announcement, the Associated Builders and Contractors sent a letter to DeFazio and to the other members of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee outlining what the organization would like to see included in the bill. The suggestions include some measures that DeFazio and other Democrats are not likely to favor, including:
- Additional streamlining of environmental and permitting reviews.
- Promoting "fair and open competition" through the exclusion of project labor agreements and prevailing wage requirements.