US infrastructure, reconciliation bills could see legislative action soon

Janet Miranda


HOUSTON (ICIS)–US Congress could see legislative action this week on the $1tr infrastructure bill and the $3.5tr budget reconciliation bill, said Matt Seaholm, vice president of governmental affairs, at the Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS).

After the US off-year elections on Tuesday, which included key gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia, Democratic leadership is interested in pushing key legislation to the finish line.

“Inaction is no longer an option anymore,” Seaholm said in a panel discussing federal plastics policy at the virtual Plastics Packaging Summit.

While the New Jersey governor’s race remains too close to call, in Virginia Republican Glenn Younkin won the gubernatorial race, beating Democratic former Governor Terry McAulifee.

This could spur Democratic leadership to pass the infrastructure bills, after months of negotiations.

If passed in the US House, the $1tr infrastructure bill could go to the president’s desk to be signed.

The bill includes $550bn in new federal spending over five years, including $110bn in roads and bridges; $66bn in passenger and freight rail; $39.2bn for public transit; $65bn for high-speed internet deployment; $17.3bn for ports and waterways; $55bn for clean water; and $73bn for renovating the electric grid.

Also included is $8bn for clean energy investments (including hydrogen R&D and hubs), $7.5bn for zero- and low-emission buses and ferries, $7.5bn for electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, $3.5bn for four direct-air-capture (DAC) industrial hubs, $4.7bn for plugging orphaned gas wells and $2.5bn in carbon capture and demonstration projects.

Adding yet more fiscal stimulus, especially in hard assets, would significantly increase demand for chemicals and polymers.

Many end products that are made by the chemical sector are used in the construction of infrastructure projects and in the manufacture of vehicles, especially electric vehicles, which tend to need lightweight materials like plastics.

The budget reconciliation bill’s path is not as simple. It would need to be voted on in the US Senate after passage in the lower chamber. There, it would need a simple majority to pass under budget reconciliation parliamentary measures.

The Senate is split 50-50 with Vice President Kamala Harris, holding a decisive vote in any tie between Republicans and Democrats.

The spending bill would require all 50 Democrats in the Senate to be onboard. That could likely not be an easy task.

“There is a recognition that the likelihood that they can get a sign off from (Democratic Senator Joe Manchin) before it gets sent over to the Senate is not looking possible at this point,” Seaholm said.

Additional reporting by Joseph Chang

Thumbnail image shows a bridge spanning the Mississippi River.


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