Former president Barack Obama. White House photo
WASHINGTON — U.S. House Democrats’ highway funding bill is poised to include roughly three out of five transportation projects submitted by members, as legislators vie for their share of federal dollars through the resurrected congressional earmarks process.
The 1,473 projects that made the cut were out of 2,383 that Democratic and Republican legislators requested for inclusion in a federal infrastructure bill, at a time when infrastructure is the subject of prolonged, high-profile negotiations between the White House and Republicans in Congress.
The earmarks list — detailed in an amendment to five-year, $547 billion surface transportation reauthorization bill that the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will take up on Wednesday — has a price tag of $5.7 billion. That’s about 40% of the nearly $14.9 billion that was requested for member-designated projects.
Florida projects are in the earmarks list on pages 75 to 82, in the amendment.
If the bill is passed, districts represented by Democrats would receive the largest share of those dollars. Nearly $4 billion is designated for projects requested by Democrats, and $1.7 billion is for Republican-backed projects.
Republicans requested money for far fewer projects than Democrats did, and some Republicans didn’t request any earmarked funding at all.
Among Republicans, roughly 400 of the 600 projects they sought were included. Of the 1,778 projects that Democrats sought, the proposal includes 1,067.
Congressional Democrats brought back the earmarks process this year, after Republicans banished it in 2011 following intense public criticism of corruption and a lack of fairness.
New guidelines intended to make earmarks more fair and more visible require lawmakers to post documentation for each project on their websites, with a letter attesting that they have no financial stake in the project.
The text of the pending amendment doesn’t specify which lawmaker requested money for an individual project. But members can be identified by sorting through the list of project requests on the House Transportation panel’s website.
Across States Newsroom’s 22 states, lawmakers took varying approaches to the number of projects they submitted and the cost of those projects.
Florida projects include a $20 million road project in Lakeland and a $15 million extension in Pasco County, as well as a $8.36 million project for President Barack Obama Parkway, phase 2, in Orlando.
As the House-drafted highway bill heads to the next step in the legislative process, there’s no guarantee that any of the projects ultimately will get funded and built.
President Joe Biden and congressional Republicans have been negotiating for weeks over the price tag of a bill to pay for building and repairing scores of aging and failing highways, bridges and transit systems.
It’s unclear if they’ll be able to reach a consensus, and if not, if Democrats will be able to push through a major transportation bill without GOP support.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, (D-Calif.), has said she wants an infrastructure measure to come to the floor before July Fourth. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, (D-N.Y.), has said his chamber will also take up transportation legislation next month.
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