The U.S Senate is considering amendments to a mammoth infrastructure bill based on an agreement reached last week by President Biden and a bipartisan group of senators. The bill authorizes a total of $1 trillion in spending, including $550 billion in new spending, to rebuild the nation’s physical infrastructure.
We think the bill would present some great opportunities for FirmoGraphs clients, as much of it would fund projects you could bid on, such as those involving the construction of roads, bridges, and rail, as well as electric and broadband infrastructure; the replacement of lead water lines; and the removal of so-called forever chemicals (PFAS) from drinking water.
In this blog, we’ll look at the remaining hurdles to the bill becoming law; summarize some of its contents; and offer a few tips to help you get ready to compete for the business it would provide.
Timeline and Possible Roadblocks
Barring some unforeseen circumstance, the bill won’t become law until fall. That’s because the House of Representatives is in recess and is not scheduled to reconvene until Sept. 21.
Despite that, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer wants to deal with any amendments offered to the bill and get it passed before the Senate begins a planned monthlong recess that starts Aug. 9. But, as this CNBC article notes: “Votes on amendments — or a decision by any senator to delay the process — could trip up the New York Democrat’s timeline.” The article also notes that Minority Leader Mitch McConnell “is in no rush to move toward a final vote.”
The bill will need the approval of 60 senators to get passed, according to Senate rules. As a result, even if all 48 Democratic senators and the two independent senators who caucus with them vote for the bill, the votes of 10 Republicans senators will also be needed. More than 10 Republican senators have supported each of the two procedural votes that have been held on the bill so far, but some of them could decide not to support it in its final form.
Additionally, although there are enough Democrats in the House to pass the bill without any Republican votes, its fate could be contingent on a bill authorizing the spending of $3.5 trillion to expand Medicare benefits, boost federal safety-net programs and combat climate change. That’s because Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she won’t let the House consider either bill until the Senate passes both of them.
As the latter bill definitely won’t get the votes of 10 Republican senators, Democrats will have to try to pass it through a process called reconciliation, which requires just a simple majority. Doing so, however, will require the votes of every Democratic senator, the two independent senators, and Vice President Harris. Two Democratic senators, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, have expressed reservations about it.
What the Bill Contains
If the $550 billion bill based on the agreement between Biden and the bipartisan group of senators were to become law, here’s what would be in it, according to a White House Fact Sheet. (If you want more detail, CNN has a 57-page summary of the plan on which the bill was based and the bill’s final text, which is more than 2,000 pages.)
One fifth of the new spending authorized by the bill, or $110 billion, would go to roads, bridges, and major projects. That would include $40 billion for bridge repair, replacement, and rehabilitation, and $17.5 billion for what the White House calls “major projects that are too large or complex for traditional funding programs but will deliver significant economic benefits to communities.” The bill also would reauthorize the surface transportation program for the next five years in a manner that builds on bipartisan reauthorization bills passed out of committee earlier this year.
The second-highest allocation in the bill would be $73 billion for electric power infrastructure. That would fund the construction of thousands of miles of transmission lines to expand renewable energy generation capacity; research and development for advanced power transmission and distribution technologies; and the promotion of smart grid technologies that deliver flexibility and resilience. The bill also would create a Grid Deployment Authority.
Passenger and freight rail would get $66 billion to eliminate Amtrak’s maintenance backlog, modernize its Northeast Corridor, and expand its service outside the northeast and mid-Atlantic states. Of that, $22 billion would be grants to Amtrak; $24 billion would be federal-state partnership grants for Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor modernization; $12 billion would be for partnership grants for intercity rail service, including high-speed rail; $5 billion would be for rail improvement and safety grants; and $3 billion would be for grade crossing safety improvements.
A nearly equal amount, $65 billion, would go to infrastructure deployment to boost the availability of high-speed internet service.
The bill also would allocate $55 billion for clean drinking water, including dedicated funding to replace lead service lines and remove PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl), the so-called “forever chemicals,” from drinking water.
A little less, around $50 billion, would go for resilience and western water infrastructure to make communities safer from, and the nation’s infrastructure more resilient to, the impacts of climate change and cyber-attacks.
The Remaining Allocations
As we said earlier, the bill authorizes $1 trillion in spending on infrastructure. Of that, roughly $450 billion is spending the government already planned to do and $550 billion is considered new spending.
We’ll summarize what we think are the most relevant parts of both below, but if you want to look into them yourself, here are links to the more than 2,700-page bill itself; a White House Fact Sheet on the $550 billion in new spending contained in the bill; an article by The Hill on the bill’s five key energy components; a fact sheet from the Senate Committee and Public Works about the spending in the bill that’s under its jurisdiction; and another fact sheet from the same committee that covers the wide range of surface transportation funding in the bill.
In all, the bill authorizes $343 billion in spending on highway programs, of which about two-thirds comes from the reauthorization of the surface transportation program for the next five years. The remaining $110 billion, which is one-fifth of the new spending authorized by the bill, goes to roads, bridges, and major projects, including $40 billion for bridge repair, replacement, and rehabilitation, and $17.5 billion for what the White House calls “major projects that are too large or complex for traditional funding programs but will deliver significant economic benefits to communities.”
The second-highest amount of new spending in the bill is $73 billion for electric power infrastructure for the construction of thousands of miles of transmission lines to expand renewable energy generation capacity; research and development for advanced power transmission and distribution technologies; and the promotion of smart grid technologies that deliver flexibility and resilience.
The third-highest amount of new spending, $66 billion, is for passenger and freight rail, largely to eliminate Amtrak’s maintenance backlog, modernize its Northeast Corridor, and expand its service outside the northeast and mid-Atlantic states.
A nearly equal amount, $65 billion, is for the deployment of infrastructure to boost the availability of high-speed internet service.
The bill also allocates new spending of $55 billion for clean drinking water, including dedicated funding to replace lead service lines and remove PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl), the so-called “forever chemicals,” from drinking water.
A little less, around $50 billion in new spending, is for resilience and western water infrastructure to make communities safer from, and the nation’s infrastructure more resilient to, the impacts of climate change and cyber-attacks.
Airports, ports, and waterways get $42 billion in new spending to address repair and maintenance backlogs; reduce congestion and emissions; and drive electrification and other low-carbon technologies. Of that, $25 billion is for airports and $17 billion is for ports and waterways.
And public transportation gets $39 billion in new spending for modernization and to improve accessibility for the elderly and people with disabilities.
How FirmoGraphs Customers Can Prepare
As we said earlier, if this bill were passed, it would present many great opportunities for FirmoGraphs customers. Here are some tips for making sure you have the strategies in place to capitalize on them.
The first thing to do is know what the bill is likely to contain. This blog and some of the links in it are a good starting place, but they only show what types of infrastructure construction will be funded, not which specific projects will be funded. Fortunately, there is time to find that out.
FirmoGraphs customers who have done work for state and local agencies should take a look at their capital plans and meeting minutes to see what projects they are planning to seek bids for and when. Keeping general track of those is always a good idea, but even if you do that, you should go back and see which projects they consider priorities, especially ones that are “shovel ready,” i.e., that they would seek bids on as soon as the funding for them arrives.
We also recommend that our customers look at possible partnerships for design-build and other strategically sourced work. If you’ve previously partnered with other companies on work that’s similar to the work this bill would likely fund, check in with them and see if they’d be willing to team up again.
Additionally, see who has won contracts that are similar to ones likely to be awarded with the funding from the bill. That will enable you not only to size up the competition for work you could do, but also to get ideas for companies you might want to approach about teaming up with or doing work for.
FirmoGraphs is deeply dedicated to its clients' needs and wants. We are constantly trying to keep up with bill tracking, related changes, and regulations so that opportunities won't be missed. If your company needs and wants to dive deeper into it, feel free to request a meeting and review the data live in the BI.