'It’s about mass transit.' Lawmakers racing to seal a bipartisan infrastructure deal early this coming week are hitting a major roadblock over how much money should go to public transit, the group’s lead Republican negotiator said.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Lawmakers racing to seal a bipartisan infrastructure deal early this coming week are hitting a major roadblock over how much money should go to public transit, the group’s lead Republican negotiator said Sunday.
early this coming week are hitting a major roadblock over how much money should go to public transit, the group’s lead Republican negotiator said Sunday.As discussions continued through the weekend, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman said both sides were “about 90% of the way there” on an agreement.
“We have one issue outstanding, and we’re not getting much response from the Democrats on it,” he said. “It’s about mass transit. Our transit number is very generous.”Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has said he wants to pass a bipartisan package and an accompanying $3.5 trillion budget plan before the Senate leaves for its August recess. He held a procedural vote last week to begin debate on the broad framework, but
, saying they needed to see the full details of the plan.ADVERTISEMENTDemocrats want to see more of the money in the roughly $1 trillion infrastructure agreement go toward boosting public transportation, which includes subways, light-rail lines and buses, in line with President Joe Biden’s original infrastructure proposal. headtopics.com
The bipartisan group originally appeared to be moving toward agreement on more money for transit before an objection by Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey, the top Republican on the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, which oversees public transit. He cited, in part, previous COVID-19 federal relief money that had already been allocated to public transit.
“Nobody’s talking about cutting transit,” Toomey said Sunday. “The question is, how many tens of billions of dollars on top of the huge increase that they have already gotten is sufficient? And that’s where there is a little disagreement.”Typically, spending from the federal Highway Trust Fund has followed the traditional formula of 80% for highways and 20% for transit. Republicans including Toomey want to change that, but Democratic Sens. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Tom Carper of Delaware say they will oppose the deal if it does.
The White House has declined to say whether Biden would push for the additional funding for transit.“Transit funding is obviously extremely important to the president — the ‘Amtrak President,’ as we may call him,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday. “But we believe that members can get this work done and can work through these issues quite quickly.”
ADVERTISEMENTThe final package would need the support of 60 senators in the evenly split 50-50 Senate to advance past a filibuster — meaning at least 10 Republicans along with every Democratic member. Last week’s test vote failed along party lines.A Democratic aide granted anonymity to discuss the private talks said beyond transit, there are other remaining issues still unresolved around how to pay for it. For instance, details on broadband funding, as well as whether to tap into leftover COVID relief funds previously passed by Congress, continue to be discussed, the aide said. headtopics.com
Democrats are seeking a compromise to pay for the package after Republicans dashed a plan to boost the IRS to go after tax scofflaws, though Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, a Democratic negotiator in the group, said he remains optimistic about reaching a deal soon.
“We’re down to the last couple of items, and I think you’re going to see a bill Monday afternoon,” Warner said Sunday.Three rounds totaling nearly $70 billion in federal COVID-19 emergency assistance, including $30.5 billion that Biden signed into law in March, pulled transit agencies from the brink of financial collapse as riders steered clear of crowded spaces on subway cars and buses. That federal aid is expected to cover operating deficits from declining passenger revenue and costly COVID-19 cleaning and safety protocols through at least 2022.
But Democrats and public transit advocates see expanded public transit systems as key to easing traffic congestion, combating climate change and curbing car pollution.Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, recently sent a letter with 30 Democrats on the panel warning that the Senate proposal was inadequate and that any deal should incorporate the House-passed $715 billion infrastructure bill, which includes more money for rail and transit.
“The historical share for public transit from the Highway Trust Fund is 20%,” Paul Skoutelas, president of the American Public Transportation Association, said Sunday. “It is the absolute minimum acceptable level to help sustain our nation’s public transportation systems. It is imperative that we make robust, forward looking investments to modernize and expand public transit that will assist in our economic recovery from the COVID pandemic and get Americans back to work.” headtopics.com
Portman appeared on ABC’s “This Week,” Toomey was on CNN’s “State of the Union” and Warner spoke on “Fox News Sunday.” Read more: The Associated Press »
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Mass transit is something for America's future. Out infrastructure is crap. Outdated. Falling apart in some areas of the country. Shut up and fix it already! GOP still dragging their feet. Put this off until 2022 so they can run with the lie that the Dems never do anything when they control both houses. The 50/50 split in the Senate is not control! VOTE BLUE in 2022. Give Dems a clear majority for progess!
Public transit is ESSENTIAL and must be enhanced and expanded. senrobportman Even rural Ohioans win when there is mass transit. We don’t need I-75 widened, give us an express mass transit from Toledo to the 3 Cs, and shuttles to major shopping or event areas. Many of us will travel more then. Remember the GOP likes nothing public, they only like private. That's where the money is. If they don't care if the public lives or dies why would they want public transportation?
GeorgeTakei knows a thing or two about mass transit. Our roads suck big time but nothing like our Congress. Stop wasting time Dems. GQP is negotiating to run out the clock. They will NEVER give Biden/Dems what they perceive to be a political win. People who more often use mass transit live in Metropolitan area (Dem) or are lower income and don’t have cars near Metropolitan areas (Dem). I can’t imagine why Republicans don’t want to spend money on mass transit. Can you? GOPBetraysAmericaEveryDay
Let those who object to investing in public transit ride the subway forever through the tunnels of Manhattan/Queens/Brooklyn. Without air conditioning. Old White Men
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