House Democrats break Biden’s pledge not to override the GOP in infrastructure spending
House Transportation Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio is accused of violating a key pledge President Biden made to Senate lawmakers to secure passage of his bipartisan $1.2 infrastructure bill.
Mr. DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat, is maneuvering to include pet projects and partisan priorities within Mr. Biden’s expansion of the $3.5 trillion federal safety net, after items were taken out of the smaller infrastructure bill. Notably, the Chief of Transportation has carried the largest package with increased funding for public transportation programmes.
The “double dipping” comes despite Mr. Biden’s promise to Republican senators that his party would not later double them on the infrastructure bill’s top-line numbers.
Republicans say Mr. DeFazio’s behavior shows that House Democrats have never been serious about working in a bipartisan way to fix the country’s roads and bridges.
“The Senate and the White House … were able to strike a deal by lowering the overall cost and focusing on traditional infrastructure,” said Representative Sam Graves of Missouri, the top Republican member of the Transportation Committee. “the home [was] …marginalized throughout this process, and now the majority will try to make up for the lack of infrastructure inputs with their $3.5 trillion spending bill. “
Mr. DeFazio’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment for this story.
In June, Biden promised a bipartisan group of senators that if they reached an agreement on infrastructure, Democrats would not seek subsequent adjustments via budget compromise. This process allows for some spending and tax measures to avoid the Senate’s 60-vote threshold and stall by a simple 51-vote majority.
The pledge, according to infrastructure negotiators, was key to winning over anxious Republicans.
Republican Senator Mitt Romney said, “We would not have had the support of our colleagues … had we had extensive negotiations and agreed on a number, and then he just came back and doubled the number.”
Mr. DeFazio reneged on his promise. The Transportation Commission portion of the settlement package adds billions of dollars in additional funding to programs addressed under the infrastructure bill.
For example, Mr. DeFazio proposed adding $320 million to the regional highway program. The bipartisan infrastructure package has already allocated $240 million to this initiative.
Likewise, the Transportation Commission wants to spend $2.5 billion on development grants for ports and waterways in a $3.5 trillion plan. The infrastructure deal that Biden and the Senate negotiated includes $2.25 billion for this particular program.
Mr. DeFazio’s biggest attempt is to tie infrastructure spending deals with public transportation. The Transportation Commission’s settlement action includes an additional $10 billion for passenger trains. Biden’s infrastructure deal committed $36 billion to high-speed rail through the Federal Interstate Partnership for the Intercity Commuter Rail Program.
GOP amendments that sought to stop “double dipping” were blocked by House Democrats earlier this week during the Transportation Committee.
“Today’s partisan majority actions ensure that the House continues to be completely sidelined on infrastructure,” Mr. Greaves said. “A lot of what was included in the party package today will end up on the cutting room floor because it violates the president’s agreement not to back down.” [and] Reconsiders the issues addressed in the Senate Infrastructure Bill.”
Mr. DeFazio defended his behavior, arguing that he never surrendered his support for the pledge Biden made to Republicans in the Senate.
“I did not sign this agreement,” Mr. DeFazio said in a recent interview with the Washington Post.