Dems Reconciliation Bill Contains $ 6 Billion Transportation “Slush” That GOP Assistant Says Could Fund Backdoor Allocations
The Democrats’ reconciliation bill includes a $ 6 billion fund that Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg could allocate entirely at his own discretion, an arrangement at least one GOP Senate aide said could work as a back door to fund assignments.
Article 110008 of the 2,465-page bill released on Friday sets aside $ 6 billion for “projects aimed at advancing local surface transportation priorities.” It was produced by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which is chaired by Representative Peter DeFazio, D-Ore.
DeFazio notably wrote the INVEST law, which was the House’s version of an infrastructure bill it passed earlier this year. But Senate moderates essentially rejected all of DeFazio’s work of the INVEST law and replaced it with their preferred legislation, which became the bipartisan infrastructure bill that is slated for a potential vote in the House on Monday.
The Senate’s contempt for the INVEST law upset DeFazio, who did not hesitate to express his distaste for the bipartisan bill.
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“This was written by three people who have no knowledge or expertise of transport infrastructure,” DeFazio said in July.
He subsequently changed the number of people with “no knowledge or expertise in” the infrastructure to four: Sens. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz. ; Rob Portman, R-Ohio; Susan Collins, R-Maine, and White House Advisor Steve Ricchetti.
Just this week, DeFazio doubled down on those comments, calling the bipartisan bill “shit” and saying, “I’m trying to solve this problem in reconciliation,” according to NBC.
DeFazio also said in a letter to other Democrats on August 16 that he wanted to put the priorities of the INVEST law into the Democrats’ reconciliation bill, including “member-nominated projects,” also known as postings. .
And a GOP Senate aide familiar with the transit negotiations said the $ 6 billion allocated to Buttigieg at his discretion could be a back door to fund some of those allocations.
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“President DeFazio did not hesitate to express his resentment at being excluded from bipartisan infrastructure negotiations,” the assistant told Fox News. “Now he promises his colleagues that the $ 3.5 trillion tax and spending spree is their only move to convince the administration to use a $ 6 billion slush fund for” the projects designated by the members “- lawmaker speaks for assignments.”
“Don’t be surprised when Secretary Buttigieg announces $ 20 million for solar panels at bus stops in Guam or $ 3 million to paint bathrooms in San Francisco,” the assistant added.
The projects Aid referred to are assignments requested by Guam Congressman Michael San Nicholas and California Rep. Barbara Lee, both Democrats.
According to the San Nicholas website, bus shelters in Guam are insufficient and too few, along with other elements of the territory’s public transport. The project is officially named “Guam Public Transit Modernization – Bus Shelters” and would increase the number of bus shelters on the island tenfold.
Lee’s website says the $ 3 million “is intended to renovate up to 26 public toilets at 13 BART stations in Alameda County with new paint, lighting, bathroom fixtures and floor / wall repairs. The project will also include, where possible, improvements to LED lighting in areas adjacent to the washrooms. “
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Other INVEST law allocations included $ 440,000 for an electric cart in Ojai, Calif., Requested by Representative Julia Brownley, D-Calif. The trolley serves approximately 7,000 passengers per month. The carriage operates two routes, which largely overlap.
The Democrats are not the only ones to have asked for allocations in the INVEST law.
Representative Maria Salazar, R-Fla., Has requested eight assignments herself. They included $ 1.4 million for a light rail project in Coral Gables, which was not approved in the INVEST law. One Salazar project that was approved was the “Commodore Trail Missing Link,” a $ 999,205 effort to create a safer location for cyclists and pedestrians on South Miami Ave.
Reps Lee Zeldin, RN.Y., Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, Kathleen Rice, D-NY., Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., Stephanie Bice, R-Okla., And many others have also called for appropriations for the bill. .
DeFazio’s office did not respond to a request for comment asking if it was pushing the administration to use the $ 6 billion set aside for “local surface transportation priorities” in a way that closely reflects the allocations of the INVEST law. The request also asked if DeFazio would approve of Buttigieg using the money for Guam bus shelters, Bay Area Transportation Authority (BART) bathrooms, or the Ojai cart.
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The Transportation Department did not respond to a request for comment asking whether Secretary Buttigieg had been in contact with DeFazio about how the influential congressman might want this discretionary money spent. The request also asked if the secretary would spend the discretionary money in a way that closely mirrors the allocations of the INVEST Act.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Stepped up work on the reconciliation bill at the end of this week in hopes of satisfying progressives who want reassurance that it will indeed be passed ahead of the Senate infrastructure bill vote next week. But moderate and progressive Democrats are still a long way off on what they want to see in the reconciliation bill and the order in which the House should move the two laws forward.
This means that much of the reconciliation bill could change before it is finally passed – if passed.
Pelosi would not commit Friday to proposing reconciliation for a House vote next week. But she said she was “encouraged” by the way things are going.
Jason Donner, Chad Pergram and Jacqui Heinrich of Fox News contributed to this report.