House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster(R-Pa.) said Wednesday that an infrastructure bill could pass in a lame-duck session of Congress if it doesn’t succeed before the midterm elections.
“It could be a lame-duck strategy, that we do it after the election,” Shuster told a meeting of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
A lame-duck session of Congress occurs when lawmakers on Capitol Hill meet following the election of their successors, but before the successors have been sworn in to begin their terms.
The Pennsylvania Republican, who is retiring at the end of his current term, said earlier this month that legislation could be ready “closer to the summer.”
“Maybe we can pass it before August recess, hopefully we can. If not, everybody takes out their knives, political knives in September and October, and we’ll be just cutting each other up,” Shuster said Wednesday.
While the Trump administration unveiled principles for its infrastructure plan earlier this month, the push has been overshadowed by other legislative efforts, including lawmakers’ battles over immigration and spending. But the White House continues to promote the plan and the New Democrat Coalition on Tuesday met with President Trump's infrastructure policy adviser, D.J. Gribbin, to discuss a package.
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) on Tuesday expressed skepticism that lawmakers could get an infrastructure bill over the finish line this year.
“It will be challenging,” Cornyn told Bloomberg. “I certainly would be happy if we could, but we’ve got a lot of things to do, that being one of them, and I don’t know if we will have time to get to that.”
But Shuster, who is working on a bill with House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee ranking member Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), said he is “committed” to producing a package that he argues must be bipartisan to succeed.
“I don’t begin to try to understand how the Senate works,” Shuster told the conference, mentioning Cornyn’s comments.
The chairman, who on Tuesday announced he was dropping his push to privatize air traffic control, noted that Congress must soon pass both an appropriations bill and the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization.
“Other than that, I don’t know what they’re going to be doing over there in the Senate. Same in the House,” he said.
While lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have questioned a funding source, Democrats have repeatedly slammed the White House’s proposal for focusing on public-private partnerships and relying on funding from state and local governments.
DeFazio, who argues the administration’s proposed $200 billion of federal seed money is not enough to overhaul U.S. public works, took the stage on Wednesday with a sign that read “devolution.”
“Show me the money. There’s no sense in talking policy if there is no money,” DeFazio told the gathering of state Transportation officials.
"But if there's no money, it's not worth having the discussion," he added.