Lawmakers fail to bring infrastructure bill to vote by deadline

The Sept. 30 deadline for the House of Representatives to vote on a bipartisan $550 billion infrastructure bill came and went last week without a resolution. The no vote on the infrastructure package comes as Congressional Democrats continue to negotiate the terms of a separate, potentially multi-trillion dollar reconciliation package focused on social programs.

As of last week, progressive House Democrats were continuing to withhold support for the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) in the absence of certainty on a path forward for the larger reconciliation bill. The contours of that social spending bill remained in flux as moderate Senate Democrats sought to lower its price tag, and negotiations were expected to continue into the weekend.

According to the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA), which has been closely following progress on the infrastructure bill, should a deal be reached to advance both measures, the scope of IIJA was not expected to change from the version that was approved by the Senate in August. That bill included $550 billion in new infrastructure spending over five years, including $48.4 billion for EPA water and wastewater programs, such as:

  • $11.713 billion each to the Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Funds (SRFs), with states required to award precisely 49 percent of their share of these funds as grants or full principal forgiveness loans;
  • $15 billion through the DWSRF to support lead service line replacement projects, again with 49 percent of funds required to be distributed by states as grants or principal forgiveness loans; and
  • A total of $10 billion to help drinking water and wastewater systems address emerging contaminants like PFAS, including $4 billion through the DWSRF as grants that would be available to drinking water systems of all sizes.

IIJA would also authorize several new EPA programs including a new climate resilience program for drinking water systems and a low-income water ratepayer assistance pilot program. If the House approves the bill, it is expected that the legislation will quickly go to President Joe Biden’s desk to be signed into law.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) originally hoped to pass both pieces of legislation out of the House last week. But when that became unlikely, leadership shifted toward advancing a vote solely on the bipartisan infrastructure bill, and delaying a vote on reconciliation until the House and Senate can reach an agreement on the size, scope and timing. According to the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, reconciliation could take weeks or months to fully resolve – and the debate could continue to put downward pressure on the size of reconciliation, which was originally proposed at $3.5 trillion in total spending.

Sources: AMWA, NACWA

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