On Wednesday, House Democrats unveiled a $760 billion framework to fund infrastructure investments over five years. The framework brings together a wide array of Democrat policy priorities, including surface transportation, airport infrastructure, wastewater and drinking water investments, and rural broadband expansion, among others.
Unlike prior attempts at an infrastructure package, this one does not shy away from climate-centric proposals, including calls to make federal buildings carbon-neutral, transition to renewable fuels for aviation, and improve rail and transit options. The full framework can be accessed here.
The Democrats' package rivals the $1.5 trillion, 10-year infrastructure plan that President Donald Trump unveiled with great fanfare two years ago. However, Trump's proposal would have relied mainly on state, local and private dollars, a controversial element even among many Republicans, and focused heavily on reducing the amount of time it takes to approve permits for projects. Democrats have not yet explained how they plan to pay for the package, but members of the caucus have offered a wide range of possible options. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon) and Ways & Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Massachusetts) have said that they will not pursue contentious solutions like a gas tax increase without having conversations with the White House first, despite DeFazio's assertion that this would be his preferred method to do so, given that the federal gas tax has not risen since 1993.
Although the package is expected to ultimately stall in the Senate, this has not stopped House Republicans from offering glimpses of optimism surrounding the Democrats’ proposal. The evening prior to the plan’s release, House Republicans released a list of their own infrastructure priorities, which included unusually bipartisan concessions, such as breaking away from the gas tax, focusing attention on rural infrastructure needs, and even the potential inclusion of provisions related to climate.
Provisions of Interest
- Water: $50.5 billion dedicated toward clean water and wastewater infrastructure, $25.4 billion toward drinking water and $34.3 billion toward clean energy. Democrats are also calling for a $40 billion investment to address local water quality issues and to establish a new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) program to deal with chemicals including PFAS. Calls for new EPA regulations come on the heels of EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s announcement last week of the long-anticipated replacement of the Obama-era “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rules.
- Rural Broadband: $86 billion to help deliver advanced internet connectivity throughout America. Encompassed in this portion of the plan is $80 billion for building out broadband infrastructure to underserved communities and $5 billion for low-interest loan financing. Also included is $540 million to boost state efforts to help increase digital equity and adoption of broadband, as well as $600 million to support these priorities for covered populations.