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Indy DC Download: $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal struck as House moves to repeal Trump-era regulations

Humberto Sanchez
Humberto Sanchez
CongressGovernment
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A group of 10 Democratic and Republican senators reached a deal this week on a framework for a $1.2 trillion infrastructure package that could win enough support in the House and Senate to become law.

Democratic members of Nevada’s congressional delegation were encouraged by the announcement of the framework Thursday at the White House after it received the support of President Joe Biden.

“I think they said everyone gave a little to get a little,” said Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) of the negotiations, adding “the president is on board.” 

“We've just seen a few of the top lines, we haven't seen all the details, but it's going to deliver great American jobs, investment in infrastructure that we need everywhere,” Rosen continued. “Every single town in this country needs it. And so I think it just shows that when we really put our minds to it, we can find a good path forward.” 

But the road to becoming law is complicated by a Democratic plan to pass a separate larger package with only Democratic votes using the reconciliation process, which avoids a filibuster in the Senate where 60 votes are needed to cut off debate.

That reconciliation measure would carry part of Biden's agenda, such as subsidies for child care and paid leave and other pieces of the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan, that the GOP will not support. 

Biden said Thursday that he would only sign the bipartisan infrastructure bill if the reconciliation package is also sent to his desk.

“If only one comes to me, if this is the only thing that comes to me, I’m not signing,” Biden said.

Earlier Thursday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said that the House would not take up the bipartisan package until the Senate approves the reconciliation bill. 

Now Democrats must craft a reconciliation package that can win the support of the most moderate members of their caucus, including Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), as well as the most progressive members of the House, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-NY). The task will be difficult. With a 50-50 party split, Democrats cannot afford to lose any Senate votes. In the House, Democrats currently hold 220 seats and need 216 to pass legislation.

The agreement on the infrastructure package came as the House sent Biden three measures repealing rules established under President Donald Trump's administration. One would abolish the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency's so-called "true lender rule" that opponents argue allows payday lenders the ability to skirt interest limits. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) criticized the rule at a Senate Banking Committee hearing last fall.  

Infrastructure 

Under the $1.2 trillion bipartisan deal, $579 billion would come from new spending, while the remainder would come from already appropriated money. 

Of the $579 billion, $109 billion would go to roads and bridges; $66 billion for passenger and freight rail; $49 billion for transit and $25 billion for airports. The plan would also provide $65 billion for broadband and $7.5 billion for electric vehicle infrastructure.

The framework also includes a set of provisions to offset the cost of the package. These include cracking down on tax evaders, unused unemployment insurance relief, repurposing unused 2020 emergency relief funds, reinstating Superfund fees for chemicals, 5G spectrum auction proceeds, a strategic petroleum reserve sale, and public-private partnerships.

Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV) said the bill would go a long way towards widening Interstate 15 between Las Vegas and California and finish the Arizona piece of Interstate 11 to connect Las Vegas and Phoenix better. The two are the largest cities in the nation not linked by an interstate highway.

The package also would help build a high-speed rail line along I-15 between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

“Ultimately, these investments will allow Las Vegas to remain a top international travel destination for decades to come and create new job opportunities in our community,” Titus said of the package.

She added that the bipartisan bill and the reconciliation package together would be a boon for the middle class.

“I’m pleased to hear President Biden has reached an agreement to pursue a bipartisan hard infrastructure package in tandem with a budget plan to achieve the comprehensive agenda laid out in the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan,” Titus said. “Together, these ambitious proposals will create millions of good-paying jobs, directly combat the climate crisis, and make it easier to break into the middle class and stay in the middle class.”

But Biden's linking the two measures together have caused heartburn among Republicans, including the Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) and the other four that hammered out the deal, according to reports. 

Politico reported Friday that the five GOP senators were contemplating putting out a statement emphasizing that there were no side deals. Other GOP members who had indicated support were also not pleased with the Democrats’ plan.

Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) told Bloomberg News that he wanted assurances from Manchin and Sen Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), who helped negotiate the deal, that they would oppose a reconciliation bill to keep his support for the bipartisan package.

The bill needs 60 votes to pass the Senate.

In the House, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy also voiced his opposition to linking the two bills.

“I think my members think they need a chiropractor because they got whiplash,” McCarthy said. “I don’t think that’s going to work. I don’t think that’s going to pass, and I think they killed any opportunity. I think it was disingenuous in every shape or form.” 

Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV) believes it would be difficult for the GOP to oppose the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill because of the need. She added that they could simply vote against the reconciliation package if they don't support it.

“We always knew it was going to be a two-step process,” Lee said, adding that the president is committed to both proposals.

“There's nothing more bipartisan than infrastructure, but obviously there's other priorities that this administration and the Democratic Party has, especially for Nevada,” Lee continued. “Childcare, affordable housing are key parts of the [American] families package.” 

“You're gonna have two bills in front of you and I think it's pretty hard for any member of Congress to go home with crumbling infrastructure in this country and not have voted for that bipartisan deal because of a future bill,” Lee said. “And so if they don't like the reconciliation don't vote for it.”

House votes

The House approved a measure repealing the “true lender rule” on a 218 to 208 vote. All Democrats voted for the resolution and only one Republican voted with them. That lone GOP member was not Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV). (It was Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI).)

“At a federal level, under the Trump administration and with Republicans when they were in charge, they were allowing the payday lending industry to really be abusive towards consumers,” Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV) said of the rule.

He argued that the rule allowed payday lenders to form partnerships with national banks headquartered in states with less restrictive interest caps to get around the lower limits where the lenders do business.

Republicans, led by Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC), ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee, said that the bill was an effort to score political points and appease their base voters. However, repealing the rule would make banking services more expensive and credit less available, McHenry said.

“Let’s call this what it is,” McHenry said. “Its blue-states and their left-wing, so-called consumer protection advocates who want to again limit the reach on national banks and partnerships under the guise of ‘consumer protection.’”

The Senate approved the resolution in May. 

The House also approved a measure, on a 219 to 210 party-line vote, to repeal a Trump-era Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) rule for the conciliation process. When the EEOC finds that an employer has possibly violated anti-discrimination laws, employers and employees must enter into conciliation, similar to arbitration, before a lawsuit can be filed. 

The rule requires that the EEOC provide the employer a written summary of facts and other information. 

Democrats, led by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), chairman of the Education and Labor Committee, said that the rule would "put a thumb on the scale for employers" and allow employers to drag out the conciliation process.

Rep. Virginia Fox (R-NC), the labor panel’s ranking member, argued during the House debate that the rule “is fair, increases transparency, reduces senseless litigation and upholds federal statute.” 

The Senate also approved the resolution in May. 

The House lastly approved a measure to reinstate methane emission restrictions for the oil and gas industry. The measure passed 228-191. All Democrats support the measure along with 12 GOP members. Amodei was not among them.

Methane is the main ingredient in natural gas and is a potent greenhouse gas — 84 times more dangerous to the planet than carbon dioxide — and the oil and gas industry is the nation's largest emitter of methane.

House and Senate Democrats used the Congressional Review Act (CRA), to repeal the rules. 

The CRA allows Congress to repeal regulations within 60 days from when they were submitted to Congress or from their publication in the Federal Register, whichever date is later. Resolutions under the law cannot be filibustered in the Senate and require only a simple majority for passage.

Senate votes

Senate Republicans blocked Democrats from starting debate on a voting rights and campaign reform package known as the For the People Act.

The bill needed 60 votes for the chamber to begin consideration, but the measure failed on a 50 to 50 party-line vote. 

Cortez Masto and Rosen were both cosponsors and voiced their regret at the failure to advance the bill. And both have said they support reforming the filibuster to pass the measure. 

Cortez Masto blamed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who has led the fight against the bill, which he argued would federalize elections, which local governments typically run.

“Mitch McConnell just used the filibuster to block us from moving forward with the #ForThePeopleAct, our bill to protect voting rights, get rid of dark money in politics, and end partisan gerrymandering,” Cortez Masto said on Twitter. “Americans deserve better.”

The bill would establish automatic and same-day voter registration, restore the vote to felons who have served their sentences and require at least 15 consecutive days of early voting. It would also make it easier to cast ballots by mail and require states to establish independent redistricting commissions to draw new congressional districts.

The legislation also would establish a public campaign finance option for those seeking federal office. The bill would match donations up to $200, considered small-dollar, to participating congressional candidates at a 6-1 ratio. Therefore, a $200 donation to a candidate would attract $1,200 in matching public funds for a total contribution of $1,400.

The House passed the bill in March. Horsford said that Congress must pass the bill because it is so essential for democracy. But it remains unlikely that the bill could be changed or tweaked to win the 10 GOP senators needed to pass the bill. 

“It's going to require every person in America to put pressure on the Senate to do their job,” Horsford said. 

Miscellany

The House will vote next week on a bill to create a select committee to investigate the causes of the Jan. 6 riot in the U.S. Capitol building and the security of the complex.

Democrats in the state’s congressional delegation expressed disappointment that the Senate GOP blocked a bill last month that would have established an independent commission. The House passed that measure 252 to 175, with 35 Republicans voting with Democrats. 

“That there are members of this body that would not vote for commission, it's really a shame,” Lee said. “And so we have to get to the bottom of what happened on that day and so I'm glad that the speaker has moved.”

Biden forwarded the nomination of Camille Touton to lead the Bureau of Reclamation, a water management agency under the Department of the Interior, which oversees dams, canals, and hydroelectric plants across the Western United States. It is the nation’s largest wholesaler of water and the second largest producer of hydroelectric power in the West.

A native Nevadan and graduate of UNLV, Touton currently is the deputy commissioner at the bureau. She also worked for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee and the House Natural Resources Committee.

Touton also served at the Department of Interior under President Barack Obama. 

After earning degrees in civil engineering and communications from UNLV, she attended George Mason University and received a Master of Public Policy degree. 

Touton lives in Virginia with her husband and daughters.

For a full rundown of the measures the delegates supported or opposed this week, check out The Nevada Independent’s congressional vote tracker and other information below.

SEN. CATHERINE CORTEZ MASTO

Legislation sponsored:

S.2219 – A bill to amend the Agricultural Act of 2014 to repeal the forfeiture rule for peanuts under the nonrecourse marketing assistance loan program, prohibit the use of Federal funds for certain activities, and for other purposes.

S.2162 – A bill to require the Small Business Administration to publish loan default rates by franchise brand, and for other purposes.

S.2144 – A bill to clarify the eligibility for participation of peer support specialists in the furnishing of behavioral health integration services under the Medicare program.

Legislation co-sponsored:

S.2295 – A bill to amend the Horse Protection Act to designate additional unlawful acts under the Act, strengthen penalties for violations of the Act, improve Department of Agriculture enforcement of the Act, and for other purposes.

S.2287 – A bill to improve Federal population surveys by requiring the collection of voluntary, self-disclosed information on sexual orientation and gender identity in certain surveys, and for other purposes.

S.2268 – A bill to require the Secretary of Homeland Security to identify each alien who is serving, or has served, in the Armed Forces of the United States on the application of any such alien for an immigration benefit or the placement of any such alien in an immigration enforcement proceeding, and for other purposes.

S.2264 – A bill to prohibit commercial sexual orientation conversion therapy, and for other purposes.

S.2242 – A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to expand the membership of the Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans to include veterans who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, gender diverse, gender non-conforming, intersex, or queer.

S.2226 – A bill to amend the Indian Health Care Improvement Act to authorize a special behavioral health program for Indians, and for other purposes.

S.2224 – A bill to direct the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy to carry out programs and activities to ensure that Federal science agencies and institutions of higher education receiving Federal research and development funding are fully engaging their entire talent pool, and for other purposes.

SEN. JACKY ROSEN

Legislation sponsored:

S.2257 – A bill to provide Federal support for nonprofit generic and essential medicine and device manufacturers to increase the availability of drugs and devices in order to reduce drug or device shortages and drug and device costs.

S.2199 – A bill to require the Secretary of Energy to establish a voluntary Cyber Sense program to test the cybersecurity of products and technologies intended for use in the bulk-power system, and for other purposes.

S.2197 – A bill to amend title XIX of the Social Security Act to increase the Federal medical assistance percentage for States that provide Medicaid coverage for telehealth services.

Legislation co-sponsored:

S.2295 – A bill to establish the United States-Israel Artificial Intelligence Center to improve artificial intelligence research and development cooperation.

S.2287 – A bill to improve Federal population surveys by requiring the collection of voluntary, self-disclosed information on sexual orientation and gender identity in certain surveys, and for other purposes.

S.2242 – A bill to prohibit commercial sexual orientation conversion therapy, and for other purposes.

S.2224 – A bill to direct the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy to carry out programs and activities to ensure that Federal science agencies and institutions of higher education receiving Federal research and development funding are fully engaging their entire talent pool, and for other purposes.

S.2217 – A bill to increase the participation of historically underrepresented demographic groups in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education and industry.

S.2215 – A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide for an exclusion for assistance provided to participants in certain veterinary student loan repayment or forgiveness programs.

S.2214 – A bill to amend title XIX of the Social Security Act to increase the ability of Medicare and Medicaid providers to access the National Practitioner Data Bank for the purpose of conducting employee background checks.

S.2210 – A bill to amend title XIX of the Social Security Act to expand access to home and community-based services (HCBS) under Medicaid, and for other purposes.

REP. DINA TITUS

Legislation co-sponsored:

H.R. 4163 – To amend the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act to provide pay equity for amateur athletes and other personnel.

H.R. 4118 – To authorize the Secretary of Health and Human Services to build safer, thriving communities, and save lives, by investing in effective community-based violence reduction initiatives, and for other purposes.

H.R. 4104 – To reform the disposition of charges and convening of courts-martial for certain offenses under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and increase the prevention of sexual assaults and other crimes in the military.

REP. SUSIE LEE

Legislation sponsored:

H.R. 4145 – To establish a matched savings program for low-income students.

Legislation co-sponsored:

H.R. 4104 – To reform the disposition of charges and convening of courts-martial for certain offenses under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and increase the prevention of sexual assaults and other crimes in the military.

H.R. 4099 – To reform the disposition of charges and convening of courts-martial for certain offenses under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and increase the prevention of sexual assaults and other crimes in the military.

REP. STEVEN HORSFORD

Legislation sponsored:

H.R. 4118 – To authorize the Secretary of Health and Human Services to build safer, thriving communities, and save lives, by investing in effective community-based violence reduction initiatives, and for other purposes.

Legislation co-sponsored:

H.R. 4104 – To reform the disposition of charges and convening of courts-martial for certain offenses under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and increase the prevention of sexual assaults and other crimes in the military.

H.R. 4085 – To allow for the transfer and redemption of abandoned savings bonds.

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