Washington Report: Congress Passes Significant Legislation

By Patty Power, ACPA Washington Advocate

As summer activity winds down in Washington in early August and federal legislators return to their states and districts to visit with their constituents, and in some cases campaign for the upcoming midterm elections, we have a chance to reflect on this session of Congress to date, and to look ahead through the rest of the year.

Two-and-a-half years into the global COVID-19 pandemic, along with all the economic disruption it caused around the world, and now compounded by Russia’s attack on Ukraine and natural climate disasters seemingly occurring in every part of the globe — all have created unprecedented economic, political and social disruption on both a broad and deep scale. Washington has struggled with these strong headwinds. Partisan rhetoric is at an all-time high. Watching the news or your social media feed, you may see a high level of dysfunction.

The noise is real, but the reality is different. While it is very easy to dwell on all that is wrong with Washington and the world, Congress and the administration are getting a lot done in D.C., and you may be surprised to learn that it is getting done in a bipartisan way. For example, the following major pieces of legislation passed in both the House and the Senate through bipartisan support in the past nine months:

  • Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act;
  • Annual National Defense Authorization Act;
  • Bipartisan Safe Communities Act to address gun safety;
  • Postal Service Reform Act;
  • Civil rights law to ban lynching (unanimous in Senate);
  • CHIPS and Science Act to maintain global technical and economic competitiveness; and
  • An overwhelming Senate vote (95-1) to support Finland and Sweden’s addition to NATO in the midst of Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

At some point, all of this disruption will lead to a transition. ACPA stands ready to take advantage of it. In follow-up to ACPA’s specific federal legislative issues:

  • ACPA continues to make progress to secure passage of the Concrete Pump Tax Fairness Act. We are working with bill sponsors to get the bill introduced in the Senate this fall.
  • ACPA continues to work with the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association and other construction associations who share our concerns about the timber industry’s aggressive support for the use of mass-timber construction materials and the construction of tall-wood buildings in federal projects. Of late, the timber industry has focused on the Defense Department, a federal procurement powerhouse, and has targeted both the annual National Defense Authorization Act and the Defense and Agriculture Appropriation bills. While ACPA supports accessing federal programs to develop sustainable building materials, we do not support bypassing established design and engineering construction methods to address sustainability by designating only wood products. ACPA continues to work with our partners to defend a materials-neutral approach to achieve sustainability.
  • As fuel prices have dropped recently, the legislation to suspend collection of the federal fuel excise tax for a period of time, as well as to limit “excessive” fuel price increases during an energy emergency, has lost focus and has not moved in the Senate. As mentioned in the last issue, securing the funding for the recently enacted Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (“IIJA”) is critical to fund roads and bridges and the construction jobs that build them.
  • It bears repeating: The Department of Transportation and many other federal departments and agencies are distributing the federal funds authorized by the IILA by allocation to state departments of transportation and by competitive grants to eligible entities all over the country. Billions of dollars have flowed since the IIJA was signed by the president in November 2021 and the fiscal year 2022 Omnibus Appropriations bill was enacted in March 2022. These federal funds, along with their matching state and local funds, are likely to fund infrastructure construction projects in your area and provide contracting opportunities for your company.
  • The House and the Senate each passed the 2022 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), the biennial legislation that authorizes U.S. Army Corps of Engineers construction projects. WRDA 2022 should be finalized by the end of the year. Like the IIJA, the WRDA bill may provide contracting opportunities for your company.

Congress will return to Washington in September for a short session, especially in the House of Representatives, where every seat is up for election. One-third of the Senate is running for election as well. The outcome of pending legislation, such as appropriations for the upcoming fiscal year 2023, will depend on the outcome of the mid-term elections. A good topic for the next column.