Infrastructure was back on the front burner in Washington, D.C. in April, with Congressional Fly-Ins for the cement and concrete industry and a bipartisan agreement to craft a $2 trillion infrastructure upgrade package in the coming months. Here’s a summary of the two events.
A ‘Non-Traditional’ $2 Trillion Conversation
With President Trump and the Democratic leaders meeting Tuesday at the White House to discuss a major infrastructure bill, one of the burning questions in Washington D.C. right now is this: Will Congress be able to pass an infrastructure bill this year? The answer? It depends on who’s talking.
Trump met with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and other Democratic leaders, after which the Democrats announced that they had agreed to pursue a $2 trillion infrastructure package that would include highways, bridges, railroads and broadband.
Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, was quoted as saying the meeting was, “not a traditional conversation, talking Democrat-Republican. It was about getting stuff done.”
The big unanswered question after the meeting was how to fund a $2 trillion investment over the next decade. The parties agreed to meet again in three weeks to discuss the devils in those details. The original $1 trillion plan in Trump’s fiscal 2020 budget calls for $200 billion in federal spending on infrastructure, which the White House claimed would have spurred $800 billion in P3s, or public-private partnerships, over the coming decade. At the meeting Tuesday, Trump was reported to have said that he did not favor the P3 concept. So it remains to be seen where the money comes from.
NPCA Joins the Cement and Concrete Fly-In
Congress has been hearing from interest groups all year about the need for a real infrastructure bill, including NPCA representatives who joined the 3rd Annual Cement and Concrete Fly-In April 9-10.
Sponsored by the North American Concrete Alliance and hosted by the Portland Cement Association, the event brought about 150 CEOs, board members and lobbyists to Washington to advocate for a meaningful package. The group formed into 14 small teams and visited about 160 Congressional offices with the same message: We’re strongly encouraging you to pass a serious infrastructure bill. How can we help you get it done?
As might be expected when you are taking the temperature of nearly one-quarter of Congress, answers ranged from optimism – mostly in the House of Representatives — to doubtfulness – mostly in the Senate.
NPCA’s delegation included Board members Jeff Malcolm and Ray Clark, NPCA president Ty Gable, and Bob Whitmore, vice president of Communication and Public Affairs. The four participated on different Fly-In teams and visited more than 30 Congressional offices combined. The Fly-In agenda included presentations from three U.S. senators and several federal agency senior officials, including Brandye Hendrickson, acting administrator of the Federal Highway Administration. She struck a positive note for infrastructure, saying that, “of all the issues out there in Washington, we believe that infrastructure is one of the very few things that we can all agree on and we are optimistic that we will hopefully be able to get something done.”
Ty Gable, NPCA president, said that events like the Fly-In can help maintain the momentum for getting something done.
“While there’s never a direct line from visits to Congressional offices to actual legislation, it’s good to keep reminding Congress of the important role concrete producers play in creating infrastructure,” Gable said. “Fly-In events like this help keep infrastructure top-of-mind in Congress. It might be a longshot, but at least both sides are talking about a big, bold plan, and that’s a start.
NPCA will continue to monitor the infrastructure debate and report on future developments.