DeFazio seeks to ‘Move Forward’ with $1.5 trillion infrastructure act, now on its way to Senate


July 3, 2020 — The U.S. House of Representatives passed a massive infrastructure package, H.R. 2, “The Moving Forward Act,” on July 1. The legislation was drafted by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Peter DeFazio, U.S. Representative for Oregon’s 4th congressional district, who managed the many hours of debate surrounding the bill, which ultimately passed by a vote of 233-188.

The Moving Forward Act is a $1.5 trillion plan to rebuild many facets of America’s physical infrastructure with the added goal of providing new opportunities for workers and small businesses dealing with a wildly shifting business environment. 

The act allocates monies for repair and upgrades to roads, bridges and transit systems but also to school districts, housing and additionally provides significant assistance to state and local governments with specific projects that improve broadband availability and efficiency.

The Moving Forward Act was actively managed on the house floor by DeFazio, who has been working on crafting the bill with an eye towards not only repairing disintegrating bridges and mass transit systems but also to focus hiring workers displaced by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Passage of this bold, forward-thinking infrastructure bill is proof that, finally, there is a majority of us in Congress who won’t accept the status quo and instead are willing to fight for a new vision that invests in our communities, addresses the climate crisis, and creates better opportunities for all,” DeFazio said after passage of the act. “We get there by putting millions of people to work in jobs that cannot be exported, while harnessing American-made materials, ingenuity and innovation. With the Moving Forward Act, we make it clear that our infrastructure does not have to be a product of the past, with crumbling roads and bridges, unreliable transit and rail networks, inequitable outcomes and little regard to our changing climate and our changing economy.”

DeFazio facilitated the debate surrounding many of the 170 amendments to the act and engaged influential committee Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee Frank Pallone and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal as point persons in the floor battle.

Some of the main elements of the act are in addition to traditional infrastructure improvements, as well as extending the concept of traditional improvements to provide ways for those directly impacted by the pandemic to join in the digital revolution in order to prepare job seekers for the future.

If passed, major components of the Moving Forward Act include:

  • National strategies to modernize infrastructure in order to reduce gridlock, address bottlenecks and make roads smarter and safer for all users, including pedestrians and bicyclists.
  • Keep cargo moving by funding the essential dredging and upkeep of American harbors, ports and channels.
  • Invest more than $100 billion in mass transit to put more zero-emission buses on the road, add new routes and provide more service, resulting in better transit options and fewer single-occupant cars clogging highways.
  • Invest in programs, projects and materials that emphasize resiliency while reducing carbon pollution from the transportation sector, including $1.4 billion in alternative fuel charging infrastructure.
  • Modernize energy sector infrastructure with the goal of moving towards a clean energy future by investing more than $70 billion to accommodate and expand renewable energy.
  • Authorize $25 billion to modernize the U.S. Postal Service’s infrastructure and operations, including a fleet of electric vehicles.
  • Target road and bridge improvements with more than $300 billion to prioritize fixing tens of thousands of structurally deficient bridges.

Many parts of H.R.2 will have a direct impact on the quality of life experienced by Oregonians, if a unified bill emerges from Senate and House conference committees. 

In Florence, area residents would benefit from increased funding provided for ports and coastal communities. 

Part of the act includes a $3 billion grant program for shovel-ready projects to restore coastal habitats and marine ecosystems along with funding for dredging and bar repair. 

There could also be some measure of relief offered with one of the state’s most vexing issues: affordable housing. Housing has been targeted in H.R.2 with an expansion of the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit and with new incentives for affordable housing development in rural and tribal communities. 

The financial shortfalls now projected for many agencies in the states could be minimized by the act’s permanent reinstatement of the Build America Bond program and by the introduction of new, more flexible loans for COVID impacted businesses.

The financial benefits to the State of Oregon currently codified in H.R.2, primarily in support of road, transit and other infrastructure upgrades, would surpass $4.5 billion. This amount will more than likely shift once a Senate bill is crafted, passed and goes to a joint committee for final changes.

On the House floor, DeFazio said that he was hopeful the Senate would work quickly to support the Moving Forward Act, putting partisan politics aside for the betterment of all Americans.

“I challenge my Senate colleagues to join the House in thinking big and being bold on long-overdue investments not only in our infrastructure, but also in the communities and the people we all represent,” he said.

On July 1, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi stated, “We urge Leader (Mitch) McConnell and the Senate to join the House in supporting this transformative legislation ‘For The People.’ As Americans across the country come together to peacefully demand justice, equality and progress, the Congress must meet this moment by moving our country forward with real action.”

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