The U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate are beginning to outline their respective infrastructure spending packages. However, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) outlined the Congressional calendar to return to regular order and pass all 13 appropriations bills before the end of the federal fiscal year that ends on September 30. Additionally, the highway spending bill needs to be addressed by then as well, meaning Congress will be very busy between now and this fall. Also, Congress will have several holiday recesses including the entire month of August. This clouds the prospects for a large infrastructure bill this year. And, next year will be very short as the Presidential election will begin in earnest by early summer. Over in the Senate, the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee chaired by John Barrasso (R-WY) has not begun the arduous task of getting input from Senators about their priorities in such a large spending package. Instead, the EPW Committee has been focusing on presidential nominations and EPA oversight. Even without a large infrastructure bill, the highway bill could provide many opportunities to advance proposals for rubberized asphalt. The highway bill is usually a a must-pass bill going into a major election cycle and is set apart from he normal appropriations bills as it is full of spending for projects back home to be highlighted during the campaigns.
At the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, the president has submitted a significantly paired down budget that reduces domestic spending. The House Democrats have already pronounced his budget dead-on-arrival - which has been customary for several decades regardless of party affiliation. However, there are worries that if Congress ignores his budget priorities, the president will not sign the authorization bills if they reach his desk possibly resulting in another government shutdown. Remember, whatever the House of Representatives can pass must then go to the Senate where it is surely going to be modified before being sent back to the House for another vote. Additionally, the debt ceiling will also need to be raised and the president has already threatened not to sign such a bill. All these uncertainties make predicting what if anything will pass over the next two years challenging. And we have not even discussed the politics of divided government or the upcoming presidential election.