On the eve of the first full federal spending summit in more than two decades, Democrats and Republicans are in agreement that Congress must approve the bipartisan package of infrastructure projects, including $1 trillion in federal funding for roads, bridges, airports and railroads, as well as $500 billion in grants to local governments and the private sector.
But the House is unlikely to move on infrastructure legislation until next week, as it will need Democratic votes to overcome a partisan filibuster.
The Senate passed the $8.7 trillion package in a bipartisan 419-4 vote on Friday.
Democrats, who control both chambers, want to make sure infrastructure spending is included in a sweeping package to rebuild America’s crumbling roads, highways, bridges and tunnels.
“The infrastructure spending that we’re going to do is going to be a priority, but we have to get it done and done right,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said on the Senate floor last week.
“It’s not going to happen overnight.
It’s not easy, but it is our duty. “
So the bottom line is we’ve got to get to work.
It’s not easy, but it is our duty.
We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
But the roadblocks are clear.
The House must approve transportation funding for the National Flood Insurance Program, which covers more than $1 billion per year for flood insurance for the first two years.
The spending package also calls for $2.5 trillion in disaster relief aid, including disaster relief for farmers and ranchers, and $1,500 for each eligible American to help pay for disaster relief, including emergency food, water and housing assistance.
But lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have long been skeptical of the need for such large aid.
“What’s the use of a $500-a-person, $1-million aid to a small town of a few thousand people, who don’t need it?”
Rep. John Katko (D-N.Y.) said during a recent floor debate.
“There are people in New Jersey who need help in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.”
“That’s not enough.
We need an emergency relief package that covers the entire state.
The Democrats want $1 million a year for every person who needs it, but there’s not a dime of it,” he added.
“If the President really wants this, he needs to do it.
We can’t wait.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D) has called the $500 grant a “historic” infusion of money for communities devastated by Sandy.
But she’s also been criticized for calling for a $5 billion increase in funding for flood victims and others displaced by Hurricane Sandy, while leaving out a key component of the $2 billion relief package: $1 and $2 trillion in infrastructure projects that the White House says would bring billions of dollars of new revenue to the Treasury.
Democrats and their allies have pointed to the $300 billion infrastructure package passed in the 2011-2012 bipartisan stimulus bill as proof that it could be implemented without a major increase in the federal debt.
Republicans, however, are skeptical.
“You’re asking for more than a billion dollars in spending to pay down the debt,” Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N