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After GOP’s Wins, Officials See Hope for Infrastructure Bills

Photo credit: pewtrusts.org

Photo credit: pewtrusts.org

By Tom Ichniowski for Engineering News-Record

As Republicans’ wave of Election Day victories propelled them to control of the Senate and an increased House majority, construction industry officials hold out hope for bipartisan infrastructure bills in the new Congress, especially a new surface-transportation measure.

Construction industry officials hope that enough deal-making desire will surface in the 114th Congress to result in action on infrastructure legislation, especially a multiyear highway-transit bill.

On the other hand, if the GOP’s tea party wing asserts itself and pushes partisan bills, Senate Democrats are likely to react by trying to block them. If those attempts don’t succeed, President Obama could veto the measures and the GOP’s majorities would be unable to override the vetoes.

The big test will be a new surface-transportation bill. Lawmakers will have to act by May 31, when the current short-term highway-transit extension runs out.

Industry officials point out that one of the few measures to be enacted this year in a contentious Congress was an infrastructure bill, the $12B Water Resources Reform and Development Act, or WRRDA. That legislation cleared both chambers by wide, bipartisan majorities.

But compared to WRRDA, a five- or six-year surface-transportation measure would be a much tougher task, because it would require a large revenue infusion, from additional taxes or some other source, for the ailing Highway Trust Fund.

Early signals of each party’s attitudes could emerge in the lame duck session scheduled to start on Nov. 12.

Congress will have to pass legislation by Dec. 11 to fund government agencies, including construction programs, through part or all of fiscal year 2015.

Read more at Engineering News-Record