Members of the Board of Directors and Government Affairs Committee:

This week, the House of Representatives passed a five-year surface reauthorization – just days after a bipartisan group of Senators announced an agreement with the White House to advance a federal infrastructure investment. Here is an update on the surface reauthorization and infrastructure dynamics in Washington.

House passes INVEST in America Act
On Thursday, July 1, the House of Representatives passed the INVEST in America Act. The legislation includes a reauthorization of federal surface transportation programs as well as reauthorizations of two water infrastructure programs. The combined reauthorizations total $715 billion and include the $547 billion package passed by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on June 9. The package provides $343 billion for roads, bridges and safety programs, $109 billion for transit, and $95 billion for passenger and freight rail.

The legislation passed the House along largely partisan lines, with only two Republicans voting in favor of the final bill. Throughout the process, Republicans expressed frustration over the partisan nature of the formulation and consideration of the legislation, as well as the investment in climate priorities.

While the top-line numbers reflect a significant increase in surface transportation funding, the House bill includes a number of provisions concerning to the ready mixed concrete industry and omits several industry priorities.

      Buy America. The House bill includes a provision to add “construction materials” to Buy America procurement restrictions, a provision that NRMCA and our allied associations strongly oppose. NRMCA joined a coalition of materials and construction groups advocating to exempt cement, aggregates and asphalt from the Buy America provisions. While the final bill includes this provision, NRMCA and our allies were successful in securing some favorable modifications. We will continue to oppose this provision when the bill is likely considered by a conference committee later this year.

      Minimum Truck Insurance. The House bill includes an increase in the minimum truck insurance to $2 million per truck, up from $750,000. NRMCA and a broad coalition of truck and business interests opposes this increase. While the House bill includes the provision, the Senate bill does not and NRMCA will advocate for provision’s omission from a final package.

      DRIVE-Safe Act. The House bill does not include a version of the DRIVE-Safe Act – legislation that would allow properly-credentialed drivers under the age of 21 to drive across state lines – but the Senate legislation contains a compromise provision that is likely to be included in a final package. NRMCA will continue to advocate for the inclusion of this legislation in the broader package.

      Restrictions on new capacity. The INVEST in America Act contains restrictions on the construction of new capacity. NRMCA and a broad coalition of transportation and construction organizations strongly oppose these restrictions and will continue to seek to remove them from the final package.

      Permitting. The bill does not include federal permitting reforms sought by NRMCA champion Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL) and included in the Senate bill.

Passage of this legislation represents a step toward a robust, five-year surface reauthorization. Two of the three Senate committees with jurisdiction over federal surface transportation have passed their respective pieces of reauthorization. If (or when) the Senate passes its reauthorization package, it will be conferenced with the House’s INVEST in America Act to produce a bipartisan reauthorization package.

Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework in the Senate
Last week, President Biden and a bipartisan group of senators announced an agreement on a nearly $1 trillion infrastructure investment framework. The framework will invest $579 billion of new money (above what is expected to be spent on surface transportation programs) over five years to invest in traditional infrastructure. The proposal includes an additional $109 billion for roads, bridges and major projects, $49 billion for transit and $66 billion for passenger and freight rail. You can see the bipartisan Senate framework here and the White House’s endorsement here.

The agreement was almost immediately imperiled by comments from President Biden suggesting that he would veto a bipartisan infrastructure bill that was unaccompanied by a larger reconciliation package focused on non-traditional infrastructure priorities. Republicans expressed frustration over a perceived lack of good faith and President Biden’s team scrambled over last weekend to salvage the deal, with the President walking back his comments as he took to the road to advocate for an infrastructure investment. Meanwhile, the possibility of a bipartisan infrastructure package without a broader reconciliation package drew criticism from progressive lawmakers like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

Staff for the bipartisan group of 21 senators are reportedly working on fleshing out details of the infrastructure package that will include the Senate-passed surface reauthorization bills.

Even with House passage of a surface reauthorization bill, and two of three Senate Committees producing their bills, and with a bipartisan Senate-White House agreement – there is a long way still to go for a surface reauthorization – or a bipartisan infrastructure package that includes a surface reauthorization – to become law. The traditionally thorny issue of how to pay for the programs has gotten even more difficult, the politics of coupling infrastructure and reconciliation are getting more complicated, the House and Senate are in recess during the month of August, and election season will loom increasingly large as Democrats look to hold their slim majorities in both chambers and Republicans see opportunities to flip control of both the House and the Senate.

FY2022 Budget and Reconciliation
While bipartisan efforts to advance an infrastructure investment move slowly forward, Democrats in the House and Senate are preparing to craft a FY2022 budget resolution that will serve as the basis for a future budget reconciliation package. President Biden has proposed a $6 trillion budget, incorporating much of the American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan, and some House members have suggested reconciliation packages as large as $10 trillion.

Meanwhile, NRMCA is working closely with cosponsors of the Disaster Savings and Resilient Construction Act to secure its inclusion in any tax bill related to reconciliation or infrastructure. This legislation, which provides a tax credit for home and business owners who build or rebuild to a resilient standard after a natural disaster, is a long-standing NRMCA priority and is supported by a broad coalition of materials, codes and standards, insurance, and environmental advocacy groups.

As Congress moves forward with surface reauthorization and infrastructure discussions, NRMCA will seek to advance our ready mixed concrete legislative agenda. If you have any questions, please contact Andrew Tyrrell at 321-229-1785.

Thank you all for your engagement and have a wonderful 4th of July weekend.

Andrew Tyrrell
Executive Vice President, Government Affairs
National Ready Mixed Concrete Association
66 Canal Center Plaza, Suite 250
Alexandria, VA 22314