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CEDAR RAPIDS — There’s infrastructure and then there’s bipartisan infrastructure.
Many of the $51 million in projects requested by Iowa congresswomen as part of the U.S. House “community project funding” process — such as $5 million for work on Tower Terrace Road in Linn County — are included in House appropriations bills.
As much as these projects may look like infrastructure, they are not part of the $1 trillion infrastructure package up for debate in the U.S. Senate.
While the Senate was trying to find agreement on a bipartisan infrastructure package, the House approved several appropriations bills that include community project funding — formerly known as “earmarks.” Under the regular order of business, those bills would go to corresponding Senate committees where they would be approved or, if changed, sent to House-Senate conference committees for further negotiations. But that process is on hold while the Senate deliberates the 2,700-page infrastructure bill.
If senators reach an agreement and send the bipartisan infrastructure package to the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she won’t consider it until the Senate takes up a larger infrastructure bill through the budget reconciliation process, which would insulate it from an expected filibuster. That bill would include “human infrastructure — such as health and child care and climate change actions — that is not found in the current bipartisan Senate package.
“It’s as if there are three parallel tracks — appropriations, an infrastructure package and, third, a reconciliation bill coming through a budget resolution,” a legislative staffer for Republican 1st District U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson explained. “The House has done its work on the appropriations bills. It’s waiting for the Senate to finish its work on infrastructure package. The budget resolution with reconciliation instructions remains outstanding.”
The analogy works only to the point where the parallel tracks have to intersect when House and Senate leaders try to round up votes to pass those measures, she added.
There’s widespread support — in Congress and among the public — for infrastructure spending. Much of the concern is the $1 trillion price tag. While roughly half is new spending, the House earmarks do not call for new spending. The House bill authorizes spending money that has already been appropriated.
Hinson, who sits on the House Appropriations and Budget committees, explained the House is directing that “money already being designated to certain federal programs be allocated to these projects within those programs.”
If the money already is approved to be spent, she said, she would prefer it go to projects in Iowa rather than somewhere else.
Nine of her requests were included in House appropriations bills. In addition to $5 million for Tower Terrace Road construction, another $1.365 million was part of two bills, including $50,000 for the Leader In Me project in Black Hawk County, $200,000 for the Marshalltown medical clinic construction project, $500,000 for Jones County affordable housing and $615,000 for the Chaplain Schmitt Island trail connection in Dubuque County.
Also, a $22.5 million that Hinson and Illinois Democratic Rep. Cheri Busto requested for improving Mississippi River locks and dams was approved.
In Iowa’s 3rd District, more than $10 million was included for projects requested by Democratic U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne.
Second District Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks sought more than $14 million for projects in the 2nd District. Her office did not provide a breakdown of projects included in appropriations bills.
Republican 4th District U.S. Rep. Randy Feenstra did not make any earmark requests.
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