Lawmakers Address Infrastructure and the Debt Ceiling as Recess Approaches

Posted on July 19, 2019

The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held a hearing last week on the need for a multiyear reauthorization of highway transportation infrastructure programs. Expanded infrastructure investment, for surface transportation and for broader infrastructure needs, is one of NAIOP’s 2019 legislative priority issues.

While the issue is often described as an area where bipartisan cooperation is possible, Congress is divided on how to pay for any new programs, and the Trump administration has not submitted a detailed legislative proposal to Congress. 

The Senate committee hearing is a first step in moving legislation reauthorizing highway programs. “It is our shared goal to advance a bill out of committee this summer,” Republican committee chairman John Barrasso (R-WY) said. “In our legislation, we must reduce the time it takes for federal permitting, we need to lower paperwork burdens on states, and we need to incorporate innovative construction approaches and other technologies.”

Lawmakers in the House have not yet scheduled a hearing on a transportation reauthorization bill. But the chair of the House Transportation Committee says Democrats would still like to reach an agreement with the Senate and the White House on infrastructure. “We kind of started down that path with the president, and then [President Donald Trump] pulled back,” Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) told voters in Oregon. “Speaker Pelosi hopes to rekindle those talks. We will need his support if we are going to get a bill through the Senate.”

Meanwhile, the Trump administration is encouraging lawmakers to raise the federal debt ceiling before they leave for recess. “Everybody knows that there’s been some outside effort talking about the debt ceiling and that is something we are having discussions about ... and potentially the need to do something before everybody leaves,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters last week. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi seemed to agree. “I am personally convinced that we should act on the caps and the debt ceiling,” she said last week. She said the issue should be raised “prior to recess.”

The U.S. government could hit the debt ceiling as early as September. That would leave it unable to pay its bills.

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