A new congress means new infrastructure momentum

(Photo: Shutterstock)

(Photo: Shutterstock)

By TCA Vice President of Government Affairs Dave Heller & TCA Manager of Government Affairs Kathryn Sanner

At this point in time, virtually everyone around the world, even in the most remote places, has undoubtedly heard the news that the United States government is divided and that we are in the midst of an ongoing and record-setting, partial government shutdown.

While the old adage “politics are politics” is as true as ever, it often feels that the situation we’re witnessing in Washington today is unique. The 116th Congress was sworn in just a few weeks ago, after a midterm election that garnered the highest voter turnout in a generation. The country is buzzing with the desire to create change – and that zeitgeist doesn’t stop at the walls of Congress.

Especially amongst the backdrop of the government shutdown, it may seem to the casual observer that there is no political will to get anything done in Washington right now. Both sides are firmly entrenched regarding funding, and House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA-12) has even asked President Donald Trump to postpone his State of the Union address until after the government is reopened. President Trump has also added fuel to the fire with a tweet of particular interest to the trucking industry, which highlights his unwillingness to consider any legislation put forward by Congress, including an infrastructure package, until the border funding debate is settled.

But the idea that Congress is stuck in the mud is far from the truth. There is great bipartisan support for moving the ball on infrastructure. President Trump made the issue one of his main talking points in the 2016 election. Everyone wins if an infrastructure overhaul is passed, and both sides would be able to take the progress back to their constituents to help justify their positions in 2020. Infrastructure is the constant topic of conversation in Washington right now, and for a good reason.

These talks will start happening in earnest soon. Congress is still in the process of assigning members to the various committees, a process that will likely wrap up next month. While House Transportation & Infrastructure Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO-6) has announced the Republican members of the full committee and subcommittees, the Democrats have not yet been assigned. It is predicted that there will be roughly 24 total new members on that committee. On the Senate side, chairs are also still being rearranged for the Senate Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over infrastructure legislation.

Now is the time for the truckload industry to reach out to their respective members, particularly the more than 100 newly-elected Representatives and Senators who are not familiar with trucking’s issues. Since it is a guarantee that an infrastructure package will be considered in 2019, truckload stakeholders need to actively shape the debate and tell the industry’s unique story.

Stay tuned for more infrastructure news – it will not take long for Members of Congress to come to their senses and get to work on this issue.