House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) and members unveiled the five-year, $260 billion American Energy & Infrastructure Jobs Act on Jan. 31. The initiative is a long overdue infrastructure bill that reforms transportation programs and promotes increased domestic energy production to create American jobs.
“This bill will put Americans back to work rebuilding our roads and bridges and developing new sources of low-cost energy,” Mica said. “This legislation may be the most important jobs measure to pass Congress this year.”
Mica also noted that the new legislation contains no earmarks. The previous long-term law authorizing federal surface transportation programs, known as SAFETEA-LU, contained over 6,300 earmarks. That law expired in September 2009. Since then, Congress has passed eight short-term extensions, with the latest expiring on March 31.
The T&I Committee is scheduled to begin consideration of the transportation reauthorization portion of the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act on Feb. 2.
Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) said he plans on bundling the transportation bill with a measure that would override President Obama’s veto of the Keystone XL pipeline. The American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act will depend on the expansion of future oil drilling to generate a portion of the $260 billion, but none of it is expected to come from the Keystone XL pipeline. Boehner’s hope is by combining the two he could accomplish two House priorities with one fell swoop.
The Senate is expected to officially release its two-year highway bill in the coming days, but Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who heads the Committee on Environment and Public Works, has warned Mica that drilling for oil in new regions would be a major sticking point in negotiations.
The American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act also would consolidate or eliminate nearly 70 federal programs and allow states to set their own transportation priorities.