Debate in the Senate Continues; Final Bill by Friday
Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced a significant amendment that adds $25 billion to the infrastructure component of the stimulus bill. Though slightly less than the $6.5 billion that was to be proposed by Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Murray’s amendment will still one-up the House version of the bill, with $1 billion more for transit over all. The vote will occur later in the day. Murray’s amendment, focusing on construction projects, will do the following:
- 655,000 new jobs
- $25 billion new dollars in roads, transit, and water and sewer projects
- Increases highway funds by $13 billion (from $27 to 40 billion) – money would be distributed to states by formula grants
- Increases transit funds by $5 billion (from $8.4 to 13.4 billion) – $2 billion for transit formula grants, $1 billion for New Starts and Small Starts, and $2 billion for fixed guideways modernization
- Increases water/sewer funds by $7 billion (from $6 to 13 billion)
- Raises total bill expenditures on infrastructure from 16 to 18% of total size
This amendment does what the House bill has already done, and provides a significant increase in transit funds. It also increases transit’s share of total transportation funds from 24% of the bill’s transportation total to 25%, so it’s a small but useful step towards more equitable transportation funding.
In discussing the legislation, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who is also co-sponsoring the amendment, talked a lot about high-speed rail, and had an image of a French TGV behind her when discussing transportation. This amendment, however, will do nothing for high-speed rail. Though the Senate bill, as already written, will provide $2 billion in funding for high-speed rail, this amendment will not add to that total. One wonders what Ms. Feinstein’s speech writers are thinking.
Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) revealed that in a meeting with President Obama last week, Mr. Obama was “surprised” that the $800 billion stimulus bill only included about $30 billion for highways. Mr. Obama reportedly asked his adviser Laurence Summers if this was true. Mr. Inhofe is a noted opponent of spending on transit and rail, and doens’t believe in global warming.
Does Mr. Inhofe’s statement mean that Mr. Obama allowed Mr. Summers to control the outlays to infrastructure in the bill? Does this mean that Mr. Obama simply abandoned his campaign pledge for a large investment in infrastructure to Mr. Summers’ conviction that infrastructure “is a bad idea”? Mr. Obama’s reliance on conservative advisers such as Mr. Summers bodes poorly for future administration actions, and suggests that the big talk about infrastructure investment that the President previously implied would be priority may not be reality.
The amendment was co-sponsored Mark Begich (D-AK), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chris Dodd (D-CT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Joe Lieberman (D/I-CT), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Harry Reid (D-NV), Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Robert Byrd (D-WV). Evidently, Republicans aren’t much interested in infrastructure…
This amendment will replace the $6 billion transit-only amendment Senator Schumer had planned to introduce, and provides $1 billion more for transit than the House bill and $10 billion more for highways.
Senator Reid announced that he would be working towards the completion of the stimulus bill by Friday.