By TCA Vice President of Government Affairs Dave Heller & TCA Manager of Government Affairs Kathryn Sanner
As March comes to a close, the timeline for Congress to produce a viable infrastructure plan is getting shorter. Realistically, if a proposal is to pass through both the House and the Senate, then make its way to President Trump’s desk for his signature, a bill must be formalized by the end of May. This is for two reasons. First, the Summer months are wholly consumed with the appropriations process, during which the House decides how to distribute government funds to a multitude of federal programs. Discussions over other legislation are greatly reduced during this time as members and their staff are absorbed by funding negotiations. Second, by the Fall, the field of candidates for the 2020 elections should be firmly established. The Democratic Party has already announced its primary debate schedule, with dates set for once a month starting in June. The congressional upheaval caused by the presidential election cycle, particularly in the Senate, greatly hinders any chances of infrastructure success.
There are two other main threats to our industry’s optimistic infrastructure timeline: distractions and partisanship. Distractions change with each passing day, and right now, the theme seems to be the investigation into Boeing’s 737 MAX airplanes. The transportation committees in Congress have held hearings on this issue and the Department of Transportation is also getting involved. While safety should be the top concern of every segment of the transportation industry and we fully support getting to the root of the current air travel issues, these distractions unfortunately take the constructive path forward on infrastructure off course.
The other looming distraction is the newly-finalized Mueller report on the Russia investigation. This is also linked to the threat of partisanship as it is only exacerbating the division between the two political parties. While infrastructure should be one of the key areas where the Republicans and Democrats can come up with a common solution, the individual members will be less interested in working together when one side is calling for presidential impeachment while the other touts the mantra of “witch hunt.”
Yet with all of these potential threats to an infrastructure bill passing this year, we still see a reason for hope. President Trump recently stated that he is committed to working with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to pass infrastructure legislation in 2019. Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have echoed those sentiments by sharing that Democrats will work with the President moving forward.
This rare pledge of bipartisanship, particularly during a time when most issue areas are seen as potential battlegrounds, is exciting and TCA greatly hopes that it lasts. To hear our updates on the status of infrastructure reform and other legislative and regulatory priorities, join us for the upcoming TCA Safety & Security Division Meeting, June 2-4 in Memphis, Tennessee.