Indy DC Download: The Senate begins debate on $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure plan
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The Senate voted to begin debate on a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill after ironing out the final details of the measure following a weeks-long process of converting a broad framework into legislative text.
Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV), who is one of 22 senators who drafted the bill, was proud of the group’s work.
“These negotiations were long, intense, and exactly how Congress is supposed to work – a bipartisan give and take that resulted in a compromise where everyone secured victories and made sacrifices,” Rosen said in a statement provided by her office.
She helped write the section on broadband policy, which included legislation she recently introduced, the Middle Mile Broadband Deployment Act.
“The text we developed funds robust infrastructure improvements in rural and tribal communities, making broadband more affordable for low-income Americans,” Rosen said of the bill.
Middle mile is a term that describes the connection between the backbone of the internet and a local connection site. Rosen's legislation would create a National Telecommunications and Information Administration program to award grants to build middle-mile infrastructure.
In addition to the broadband provision, Rosen also worked on the airport section of the package, which is also “critical to Nevada’s travel and tourism economy,” she said.
As the Senate advanced the infrastructure measure, the House approved nine of the 12 annual appropriations bills, including the measure funding the Department of Energy’s (DOE) budget, which included no funding for storing nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain.
The House also adjourned Friday without passing legislation extending the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) eviction moratorium, which expires Saturday.
House Democratic leaders were eyeing an extension through Oct. 18, but the House left town for the August recess without a vote.
Democratic leaders initially wanted an extension through the end of the year, but after not getting a critical mass of support, they scaled it back to Oct. 18 in hopes of winning enough support to pass an extension.
Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV) and Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV) supported taking action on a new extension, but Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and Rosen instead called for a focus on speeding up the distribution of funds provided by the American Rescue Plan (ARP) and other pandemic aid to those that need it.
“My focus right now is on working with the administration to get rental assistance we passed in ARP out the door and quickly,” Rosen said.
To date, only about $3 billion of the $46 billion in emergency rental assistance appropriated so far had been distributed to stave off evictions, according to the U.S. Treasury Department.
Senate votes advancing the infrastructure bill come a little more than a month after members of the bipartisan Senate group announced their deal on the framework for a measure.
The Senate voted 67 to 32 on Thursday to cut off debate on the motion to take up the bill, easily clearing the 60 vote threshold to advance the measure. The Senate voted Friday, 66 to 28, to begin consideration of the bill. Only 51 votes were needed. Both Rosen and Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) voted in favor of the measure.
It remains to be seen if the final bill can attract the 60 votes needed to end debate. But some members of the House were concerned by the Senate measure. Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV) said she wants to ensure that the $20 million she secured for four projects in her district in the infrastructure bill passed by the House in early July get to their intended recipients.
“If they take out our earmarks, then I lose all those programs for Southern Nevada,” said Titus, who is a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “So I'm not very supportive of that.”
Nevada’s House members have a total of $54.5 million for 11 state projects included in the House bill. One way to preserve that funding would be for the House and Senate to square their different bills in a conference committee.
But Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), chairman of the transportation panel, indicated that a conference was being discouraged by the White House to ensure that the Senate package keeps enough GOP votes to pass the chamber.
“I don’t know,” DeFazio said when asked about the fate of the funding but held out hope for an opportunity to put some of House Democrats’ priorities in the package.
Also, he added that if the bill is what he expects, he would likely oppose it without any changes.
“From what we have heard, having seen no text, this bill is going to be status quo 1950s policy,” DeFazio said. “It would be a travesty, at this point in time, to adopt that bill if you believe in climate change.”
Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV) said he was confident that he could get the $21 million he requested for five projects in his district in the annual Department of Transportation appropriations bill if the bipartisan measure does not honor the House earmarks.
“There’s going to be a transportation bill,” Amodei said, adding that he had spoken to the panel’s ranking member Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart on the matter.
The $1.2 trillion package includes $550 billion in new funds, down from the initial $579 million called for in the framework. The rest will come from redirected pandemic relief dollars that had been previously appropriated.
Of the $550 billion, $110 would go to roads and bridges; $66 billion for passenger and freight rail, $39 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.
Another $50 billion would address climate change, including funds to protect against droughts and floods.
The Senate will likely work through the weekend as members press to get amendments added to the bill. However, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) must weigh any changes against the need to keep at least 60 members backing the bill. That augurs for few, if any, changes.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said he expects it to be a long week.
“I imagine we'll just grind it out,” Cornyn told reporters. “It’s going to be a grind.”
The House approved nine of the 12 annual appropriations bills, including funding for DOE and the Department of Interior (DOI), which regulates public lands.
The chamber voted 219 to 208 on a roughly $600 billion package of seven bills. All Democrats voted for the measure and no Republicans supported it. The House also approved the bill funding House and Senate members’ office budgets the Library of Congress and other governing-dependent agencies 215 to 207 with only one Republican joining all Democrats. Another spending bill approved by the House, 217 to 212, would fund the State Department. No Republicans voted for the measure.
Amodei said that while the bills included some of the $9.5 million he requested for 10 projects, most of the spending in the measures he could not support.
He called the appropriations process “agenda driven” that resulted in the spending bills packed with Democratic priorities, $10 million in the spending bill that funds the Department of Justice for a pilot program to develop and expand gun buyback and relinquishment programs.
Amodei also cited new restrictions added to the D.C. private school voucher program in the bill that oversees the nation's capital.
The state’s other House members touted funds they secured in the bills, including Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV), who obtained $7.3 million for nine projects.
Those included $2 million for the Northern Nye County Hospital District to help build a new hospital. He got another $1.5 for street improvements for the Historic Westside of Las Vegas, $1 million to help build a micro-business park in Clark County, $1 million for a civic center in Pahrump and $750,000 for upgrades to the Cheyenne Sports Complex in North Las Vegas.
Titus secured nearly $10 million for seven projects in her districts through the appropriations bills.
Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV) pointed to her efforts to keep funding from Yucca Mountain. She sits on the Energy and Water Appropriations subcommittee, which oversees DOE and its nuclear waste programs. She joined the panel earlier this year.
“When I was appointed to the House Appropriations Committee, I knew I needed to sit on the Energy and Water subcommittee to ensure that Yucca Mountain would never become the nation’s dumping ground for nuclear waste,” she said in a release.
The House also approved an emergency spending $2.1 billion measure to ramp up security at the Capitol building campus in the wake of the Jan. 6 insurrection. The House passed the measure Thursday 416 to 11, with all members of the delegation voting for the bill. The House action came as the Senate approved the bill 98 to 0.
The measure provides $70.7 million for the Capitol Police and $521 million for unanticipated pay and operations costs for the National Guard deployment at the Capitol and throughout the National Capital Region.
Cortez Masto introduced legislation that would make it easier for veterans who use a prosthesis to claim an annual clothing allowance. Currently, getting the $841 clothing allowance from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) requires a veteran to file paperwork at a particular clinic each year, sometimes in person.
“If someone is gravely injured in service to this country, they shouldn’t have to drive hours to the local VA each year to file paperwork just to get a benefit the VA already knows they need,” Cortez Masto said in a release. “
Under the bill, the program would allow the automatic renewal of the benefit until the veteran chooses to receive it no longer or the VA determines that the veteran is no longer eligible.
Many veterans advocates support the bill, including the Wounded Warrior Project, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Blinded Veterans Association.
Members of the delegation also lamented the White House’s extension of the ban on international travelers spurred by the rise in COVID-19 Delta variant cases.
“It hurts tourism for Las Vegas and that's concerning,” Titus said. “But with the spike in cases all over Europe. I can understand why they would want to be cautious.”
Rosen, who is chair of a Senate tourism and hospitality panel, said that move underscores the need to keep the pressure on vaccinations.
“As Chair of the Subcommittee on Tourism, Trade, and Export Promotion, I am working with U.S. Travel [Association] and my colleagues in the Senate to open safe and secure travel to Nevada,” Rosen said. “There is no question that a safe, science-based reopening of international travel is critical to reviving our tourism economy. If vaccination rates continue to rise and we can responsibly tackle the recent rise in cases, a safe reopening of international travel should be within reach soon.”
SEN. CATHERINE CORTEZ MASTO
S.2568 – A bill to establish the Open Access Evapotranspiration (OpenET) Data Program.
S.2513 – A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to improve the application and review process of the Department of Veterans Affairs for clothing allowance claims submitted by veterans, and for other purposes.
S.2612 – A bill to amend title 28, United States Code, to provide for a code of conduct for justices and judges of the courts of the United States.
SEN. JACKY ROSEN
S.2566 – A bill to require the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation to test allowing blood transfusions to be paid separately from the Medicare hospice all-inclusive per diem payment.
S.2565 – A bill to amend title XI of the Social Security Act to provide for the testing of a community-based palliative care model.
S.2518 – A bill to require the Secretary of Defense to disclose testing and results of testing for perfluoroalkyl or polyfluoroalkyl substances and to provide additional requirements for testing for such substances, and for other purposes.
S.2483 – A bill to require the Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency to establish cybersecurity guidance for small organizations, and for other purposes.
S.2473 – A bill to provide grants for the construction, improvement, and acquisition of middle mile infrastructure.
REP. DINA TITUS
H.R. 4811 – To amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate prices of drugs furnished under the Medicare program, and for other purposes.
H.R. 4791 – Protecting Renters from Evictions Act of 2021
H.R. 4785 – To support the human rights of Uyghurs and members of other minority groups residing in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and safeguard their distinct identity, and for other purposes.
H.R. 4687 – To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide tax incentives for the establishment of supermarkets in certain underserved areas.
REP. SUSIE LEE
H.R. 4832 – To establish the Open Access Evapotranspiration (OpenET) Data Program.
REP. STEVEN HORSFORD
H.R. 4833 – To amend the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to affirm that the Migratory Bird Treaty Act's prohibition on the unauthorized take or killing of migratory birds includes incidental take by commercial activities, and to direct the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to regulate such incidental take, and for other purposes.
H.R. 4791 – Protecting Renters from Evictions Act of 2021