House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., announced on Friday that his committee will not vote on a bill that would fund infrastructure projects until his fellow Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee release the text of a bill that would pay for social services programs.
The Democrat’s statement came in response to Republicans in Congress, who have already voted to fund the government and raise the debt ceiling for the remainder of the year, using their power of the purse to advance an agenda that has been stalled for months.
The two committees had been negotiating a potential spending deal that would cover a $1.7 trillion, three-year federal budget, but Democrats on the panel, as well as all but one Senate Democrat, have balked at a proposal from Republicans that would pay for it in part by turning to a new generation of user fees, including for internet access, that could disproportionately affect low-income households.
Mr. Grijalva expressed disappointment in Mr. Trump and Republicans, who seemed to strike a deal with Democrats in early July, only to provide a new Republican plan with an $18 billion cut to the Department of Housing and Urban Development and a proposal to shift money from the Community Development Block Grant program to repair highways and other infrastructure projects, which Democrats viewed as short-sighted.
“As long as House Republicans refuse to take up and report the legislation that would fund E&C and prepare an infrastructure package for our country, we will not be voting on the Department of Transportation bill that funds highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, etc.,” Mr. Grijalva wrote in a statement. “Republicans say their plan is paid for; all we know is that it cuts money for schools, reduces funding for the indigent, and shifts tax dollars away from the poor to fund multi-year highway projects. To do anything else is a distraction and a disservice to the American people.”
He continued: “Now that it’s September, we know Congress is running out of time. We are not going to play fast and loose with the federal highway trust fund, and our members are focused on that. Infrastructure projects are important to us, and we want to see that investment through. We have seen Republicans put forth a self-serving entitlement-reform agenda and repeatedly betray their campaign promises. I am not going to be part of that kind of deception now. I am going to do what is right.”