Following nearly nine hours of debate, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure voted 39 to 25 to recommend the “Transportation and Infrastructure” title to the House Budget Committee, which marks a step forward in delivering an additional $30 billion to the transit industry in emergency relief funding.
“By approving this legislation, our committee is moving forward with providing much-needed relief to the millions of transportation workers and rural and urban communities alike that have been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic downturn,” Chair Peter DeFazio (D-OR-4) said. “With the plan that passed through our committee on a bipartisan vote, Amtrak will be able to recall furloughed workers and restore service; transit workers will receive lifesaving personal protective equipment; and FEMA will receive critical funding to help get vaccines into the arms of Americans. I’m grateful to the members of my committee who have worked hard to pass this latest COVID-19 relief package and I look forward to seeing it pass Congress and be signed into law by the president.”
The Transportation and Infrastructure section of the Fiscal Year 2021 budget reconciliation bill includes:
- $50 billion for FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund.
- $30 billion for the transit industry; details of the funding included is available in this Feb. 9 story.
- $1.5 billion for Amtrak, which includes more than $820 million for Northeast Corridor Grants and more than $679 million for the national network.
- $8 billion for airports, which includes $800 million for airport concessionaires.
- $3 billion for the Economic Development Administration.
- $3 billion for aerospace manufacturing.
During his opening statement at the markup hearing for the bill, Char DeFazio noted the transit investments included in the proposal not only help transit workers, but the “2.7 million frontline workers who rely on public transit to get to their jobs.” He also recognized the industry’s projected $39.3 billion shortfall through 2023.
“Without additional relief, agencies do not have the cash on hand to continue running buses and trains. We risk a ‘death spiral’ for transit—more service cuts, more layoffs and further declines in ridership,” Chair DeFazio said in his opening statement at the markup. “Our essential workers can’t afford that. The millions of Americans who depend on public transit can’t afford that. And even if you never step foot on a train or bus, you can’t afford the traffic congestion that would come from millions of additional cars on the road.”
Several amendments debated at the markup would have impacted the proposed funding for transit, including one from Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA-10) that would have removed the Federal Transit Administration section entirely from the budget reconciliation proposal. The amendment was voted down 19 to 45.
GOP members of the committee were critical of the proposal and the markup. The committee’s Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO-6) said majority members “made no attempt to work across the aisle to develop the measure and didn’t accept a single Republican amendment during the markup.”
“Instead of trying to work with Republicans to determine the impacts of our previous COVID-19 relief – much of which still hasn’t yet gotten to those it’s intended to help – or to very carefully target our next steps, the Majority is in a sprint to pass this next $1.9 trillion package,” said Ranking Member Graves. “I will say this again: The American people want and expect Congress to work together on bipartisan, well-crafted, commonsense solutions to help our infrastructure and our economy. That’s the exact opposite of what happened during today’s partisan Committee markup.”
The budget reconciliation proposal for transportation and infrastructure now moves to the House Committee on Budget.