The Senate’s $550 billion bipartisan infrastructure legislation faces an uphill battle in the House, where cryptocurrency, chemicals and transportation lobbyists, and advocates are jockeying to alter it to benefit their industries.
The Senate’s 69-30 vote Tuesday to pass the measure marked a major step forward for President Joe Biden’s economic agenda and shifts the burden to House Democrats who hold a narrow majority and don’t all agree on the next steps.
“We are disappointed in the Senate product, and we are hopeful that the House will still have an opportunity to put their imprint on the bill,” said Cathy Chase, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, who is pushing for changes to the auto safety provisions in the legislation.
While moderate Democrats want to pass the infrastructure bill (H.R. 3684) quickly as-is, others are pressing for inclusion of their priorities in the infrastructure bill or in the broader and larger budget reconciliation package (S. Con. Res. 14).
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) plans to hold the infrastructure bill until the Senate passes the reconciliation package. Her chamber will work with the Senate to make sure its priorities “are included in the final infrastructure and reconciliation packages,” she said Tuesday.
At the same time, Democrats in the Senate can’t afford to break ranks on the final version of the reconciliation measure if Republicans unite against it.
The Senate bill includes provisions that would force requirements to install automatic emergency braking, car technology to detect drunk drivers and an alert system to combat deaths of children inadvertently left in a car on hot days. Safety advocates say those provisions don’t go far enough, and need to set firm deadlines for agency actions and to mandate the most far reaching technology.
“Everyone should have the safest brakes available as a bottom line safety measure,” Chase said.
Meanwhile, the American Beverage Institute is calling on the House to remove the drunk driving technology provision. The technology is not accurate enough, with their estimates at more than 3,000 false readings every day, the group said.
“Getting in your car to go to work or an appointment and expecting it to start will be a daily lottery,” the institute said in a statement. “Everyone wants to save lives, but lawmakers should not depend on unreliable gimmicks to satisfy anti-alcohol lobbyists.”