House Republicans propose third option for infrastructure funding


STARTER reauthorisation bill focuses quick but smaller outcome.

House Republicans have proposed a reauthorisation of previous infrastructure policies as an alternative to much larger proposals from the president and Senate Republicans.

The new proposal would reauthorise the five-year $300bn Surface Transportation Advanced through Reform, Technology & Efficient Review Act (STARTER), which runs out in the autumn of 2021. It would update the previous act with $400bn for the next five years.

STARTER is much smaller than the Senate Republican proposal for infrastructure, which is in turn smaller than the presidential plans. This partly reflects House Republican concerns at the high cost of the other proposals but also reflects the very narrow focus on specific types of transport in the Act.

STARTER would be relatively easy to pass with no new legislation needed to do it may struggle to win support from the president because of its limited nature. It would not provide money for investment in mass transit or airports, which are both covered by the presidential and senate republican plans. It also would not fund rural broadband or water projects.

Senate Republicans and the president are still trying to find agreement on their own very different plans. Both of those plans do include things like rural broadband and water projects alongside other transport spending but there are big differences too.

While the presidential plan amounts to more than $2tn for a diverse range of infrastructure, the senate republican plan comes with a price tag of $570m and removes funding for things like upgrading schools and research facilities.

Talks continue between the two sides to try to find a bipartisan approach and it isn’t clear if the new plan from House Republicans will impact on those talks. The president has stressed that he will act without support from Republicans if sufficient progress is not made, though he has also suggested that talks have been positive on aspects like new sources of funding that could be used.

Informally it is expected that Memorial Day will prove to be a watershed in those discussions. Some had hoped legislation might pass by then but both sides are now likely to make a decision then on whether they believe talks are productive and likely to achieve agreement or not.