The sad state of U.S. infrastructure and the urgent need to modernize it is one issue that both sides of the political aisle in the United States can agree on. Yet comprehensive legislation still continues to get stuck in the legislature.
During one of the two “mega sessions” that took place today at the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) EDGE Conference, Washington insiders discussed the troubles with infrastructure and what steps can be taken to regain the United States’ lost footing.
The first half of the session consisted of a pre-recorded interview with Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), chair of House of Representative’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, by Bob Voltman, former head of the Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA).
DeFazio reviewed his $1.5 trillion Moving Forward Act, which would invest $500 billion in roads, transit, and rail. DeFazio’s legislation passed the House but is stuck in the Senate, with no hope of reaching the floor. The bill takes a broad view of infrastructure and includes $130 billion in funding for schools and $100 billion for broadband. It also places significant emphasis on green infrastructure and climate resiliency.
During the interview with Voltman, DeFazio indicated that the blockage of the bill was due to “climate deniers” among members of the Republican party and lamented the increasing polarization in U.S. Congress that is making it increasingly difficult to create bipartisan legislation.
However, the bill has also aroused criticism from industry associations such the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Retail Federation (NRF). During the second half of the session, representatives from the Chamber and NRF joined Voltman live to discuss their opposition to the bill and their advice for pushing infrastructure investment forward.
Both Ed Mortimer, vice president, transportation infrastructure at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Jonathan Gold, vice president of supply chain and customs policy at NRF, said they objected to the partisan nature of the bill. To pass and be successful, they said, the bill needed to be bipartisan. Gold also said that many of the initiatives that were bundled into the bill, such as funding for new school construction, should have been separate legislation.
Mortimer, however, said that he is hopeful some sort of infrastructure legislation will be passed next year after the election. Both he and Gold urged attendees to contact their representatives and push them to make infrastructure modernization a priority. Gold said that one of the best ways to do that is to invite your representative to your facility and let them know how much your business (and local jobs) depend on sound infrastructure.
Mortimer recommended that people visit the Chamber’s site, Let’sRebuildAmerica.com, and sign the Chamber’s petition to extend current transportation law for one year.