Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Friday he will schedule a vote the week of Oct. 31 on a bill that would provide $60 billion for transportation and infrastructure and authorize the establishment of a national infrastructure bank.
The bill, which would be paid for with a 0.7% surtax on millionaires, is part of a bid by Democrats to vote on pieces of President Obama’s American Jobs Act since the Senate failed to move forward on the full act Oct. 11. Senators voted 50 to 49 for a cloture motion on the entire act, failing to get the 60 votes needed to limit debate on the act and avoid a filibuster.
The infrastructure piece of the president’s jobs bill will be cast as the Rebuild America Jobs Act and will be introduced by Rep. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., who sits on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. It would provide $10 billion for a national infrastructure bank to be created to provide loans and loan guarantees for transportation, water, sewer, energy, and other projects.
The loans would be secured by toll revenues, user fees or other dedicated revenue. The projects would have to cost at least $100 million or $25 million in rural areas.
The bill also would provide $5 billion for discretionary Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grants; $27 billion for road, bridge, freight rail and port infrastructure; $4 billion for high-speed and intercity passenger rail; $2 billion for airport and aviation infrastructure; $1 billion for the Next Generation air traffic control system; $2 billion for Amtrak, and $9 billion for transit.
Meanwhile, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Nov. 9 plans to vote on a bipartisan two-year surface transportation bill.
Reid announced the forthcoming vote on the infrastructure piece of Obama’s jobs bill after the Senate failed Thursday night to move forward with the first smaller piece of the act that would have provided $35 billion for the hiring, retaining, and rehiring of teachers and first responders. The Senate voted 50 to 50 on the Teachers and First Responders Back to Work Act, S. 1723, again failing to get the 60 votes needed to limit debate on the bill.
The Senate also failed to more forward with a bill that would repeal tax law provisions requiring governments to withhold 3% of contract payments to vendors — legislation strongly opposed by state and local government groups. Senate members voted 57 to 47 on the Withholding Tax Relief Act of 2011, S. 1726, which was introduced by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., last Monday. The vote was short of the 60 needed to limit debate on it.
The House, which was out last week but will be back in this week, is expected to vote on its version of that bill, HR 674, which was introduced in February by Rep. Wally Herger, R-Calif., and now has more than 260 co-sponsors.