WASHINGTON – The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee advanced, 38-26, a five-year, $547 billion surface transportation bill largely along party lines early Thursday morning.
Two Republicans, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania and Jenniffer González-Colón of Puerto Rico, supported the bill.
Members had submitted a whopping 229 amendments to the sweeping legislation, which was threaded with provisions aimed at fighting climate change and supporting racial equity in the transportation system. Democrats hope the legislation will become a cornerstone of President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion-plus infrastructure package.
Committee Chairman Peter A. DeFazio, D-Ore., called the bill’s completion “a really incredible effort,” saying the committee went through nearly 200 amendments before approving the bill.
“We don’t agree on a lot of stuff,” he said right around 5 a.m. when the committee gaveled out. “But heck, we got through it. It’s tomorrow… We won’t have to come back later today.”
Ranking Republican Sam Graves of Missouri, who voted against the bill, nonetheless applauded the committee for completing its work.
“I’m just happy that once again we have produced a bill, a surface transportation reauthorization,” Graves said. “It’s not anything I would’ve done or anything that I can support but having said that we’re still doing the people’s work.”
Graves’ comments were a stark contrast from earlier in the debate, when members fought bitterly over issues that seemed unrelated to highway policy.
The markup was briefly nearly derailed, for example, by a harsh debate over an amendment introduced by Rep. Troy Nehls, R-Texas, that would strip federal highway safety dollars from communities that defunded police. That debate devolved into a fight over the Jan. 6 mob attack on the Capitol, with Democrats accusing Republicans who did not back the Jan. 6 investigatory commission of not supporting the police.