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August 4, 2021

What to expect in Washington (August 4)

The Senate continues to consider the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and, while many Republicans support the measure and acknowledge it is headed for passage, the timing is unclear without an agreement on amendments between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Republican leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Republicans want to offer many amendments and oppose moving quickly to cut off debate on the substitute amendment offered late Sunday, while Democrats want to wrap the process soon and move on to the FY2022 budget resolution. Consideration of the infrastructure bill could have the Senate in session for a second weekend in a row, and perhaps continue into next week.

On balancing the volume of amendments, Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) said in Punchbowl, “You don’t want to have too many, you don’t want to have too few – you want that just-right Goldilocks moment.”

Amendments considered thus far include:

August 2

  • By a vote of 95-1, the Senate agreed to Thune-Tester amendment #2162 (To address the workforce needs of the telecommunications industry);
  • 90-7, the Senate agreed to Padilla-Moran amendment #2133 (To amend the Indian Health Care Improvement Act to expand the funding authority for renovating, constructing, and expanding certain facilities);
  • 45-48, the Senate did not agree to Barrasso amendment #2180 (limit the use of certain funds for grants to enable the sustained cost-effective implementation of updated building energy codes).

August 3

  • By a vote of 95-3, the Senate agreed to Lummis-Kelly amendment #2181 (to require the Secretary of Transportation to carry out a highway cost allocation study);
  • 20-78, the Senate did not agree to Lee amendment #2255 (a substitute to the substitute);
  • 48-50, the Senate did not agree to Duckworth amendment #2140 (to require recipients of all stations accessibility grants to adopt plans to pursue public transportation accessibility projects that provide accessibility for individuals with disabilities);
  • voice vote, the Senate agreed to Cruz-Warnock amendment #2300 (designate additional high priority corridors on the National Highway system);
  • 97-0, the Senate agreed to Van Hollen amendment #2354 (to include a payment and performance security requirement for certain infrastructure financing).

The Republican Policy Committee set up a tracker for amendments filed, but text links aren’t operable outside the Senate.

While a pivotal CBO score has not yet been released, JCT released a revenue estimate showing:

  • the cryptocurrency provision raising $28 billion over 10 years
  • pension smoothing raising $2.8 billion
  • private activity bonds for qualified broadband projects costing $566 million
  • a carbon dioxide capture facilities provision costing $116 million

A story in the August 3 New York Times, “Billions in Bill for Rebuilding and Pet Projects,” said, “The legislation … includes $73 billion to modernize the nation’s electricity grid, which energy analysts said would lay the groundwork for pivoting the nation off fossil fuels. But it contains only a fraction of the money Mr. Biden requested for major environmental initiatives and extends a lifeline to natural gas and nuclear energy, provisions that have angered House progressives. There is also “$7.5 billion for clean buses and ferries” and “$7.5 billion to develop electric vehicle charging stations.”

AP reported, “While it’s looking like the Senate will approve the bill during the coming week, supporters of the legislation will face an array of obstacles advancing the package, a major priority in President Joe Biden’s agenda. Interest groups on both sides of the political spectrum are taking aim at provisions they don’t like, potentially unraveling the agreement. Some conservatives don’t like that the agreement moves the country further away from relying on user fees, such as the federal gas tax, to pay for highway and transit improvements… Environmental groups worry that the bill doesn’t do enough to address climate change.”

An editorial in the August 3 Wall Street Journal, “The ‘Pay-Fors’ That Aren’t,” was critical of the GSE fee and Medicare pay-fors and said: “Senators had originally proposed to pay for some of the deal with $205 billion from repurposed Covid relief funds. But Democrats refused to reallocate any of the hundreds of billions of the unspent money for states and schools in their pandemic spending bills. In the end, Senators could only agree to repurpose $43 billion, mostly from small business programs with leftover funds.

Senators are also claiming political credit for saving money with private-public partnerships, though they don’t offset the spending and make up a tiny share of the bill.”

Cryptocurrency – Politico reported August 3 that Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) are working together to narrow cryptocurrency requirements through an amendment – which could be voted on separately or folded into a manager’s amendment – focused on narrowing the definition of who counts as a broker and is therefore subject to the proposal’s new reporting requirements.

Debt limit – Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen described extraordinary measures the department is taking in light of the debt limit reinstatement and urged “Congress to protect the full faith and credit of the United States by acting as soon as possible” to increase or suspend the limit.


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For additional information concerning this Alert, please contact:
Washington Council Ernst & Young
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