Smooth Roads Or More Gridlock?
Stephen A. Borg
In a typical August issue of MASONRY, you would likely be reading a recap of another successful MCAA Legislative Meeting (or “Fly-In”) after dozens of you joined us in Washington, D.C. to make the voices of your companies and our industry as a whole heard before leaders in Congress. Unfortunately, the COVID pandemic blew up the plans for our typical mid-May event as much of Washington, D.C., and Congressional business remained virtual through the beginning of 2021. It has been quite the strange journey to witness this town of backroom deal-making, handshakes, and personal discussions move from complete shutdown to critical bipartisan COVID relief packages, to where we are today…will it be a highway to an infrastructure deal or a quick slamming on of brakes into gridlock?
We are now officially over halfway through the year and things are slowly returning to “normal” with many offices beginning to open their doors to in-person meetings with constituents and lobbyists (in fact I was told numerous times recently by Members of Congress I was their first in-person meeting in their DC office in 15 months), Congressional hearings and legislative mark-ups returning to the actual Committee hearing rooms, and Members of Congress being summoned down to the White House for policy discussions with the President. While typical first-year politicking remains high in Washington, D.C. whether it is the President’s recently introduced $6 TRILLION budget proposal or Republican in-fighting over the election results and January 6th, there remains one sliver of hope that maybe things really are returning to “normal.”
For years, while Democrats and Republicans would fight over many strong, fundamental policy differences, both sides would come together and invest in our nation’s infrastructure in a bicameral, bipartisan manner. Almost every member saw the value in investing in our nation’s roads, bridges, and critical infrastructure to support our citizens, their jobs, and the economy at large.
With Democrats chomping at the bit to pass many of their long term policy priorities now that they control the White House and both Chambers of Congress and Republicans drooling at their prospects of retaking the House and Senate during the 2022 mid-term elections with history on their side of first-term President’s midterm party results and their belief in the complete overreach by Democrats (see the aforementioned $6 TRILLION budget proposal as an example) and it would appear that we are headed for yet another grinding halt into complete gridlock (and we may be at the end of the day), but over the past two months Senate Republicans and the President have been conducting numerous back and forth, countering proposals on a package of infrastructure investments.
Talks have advanced, sputtered, died, been restarted…frameworks have expanded, contracted, been thrown out, been agreed to…and we stand at a moment of truth. Ultimately at the writing of this article, we have two questions. Will the President ultimately buck the progressive wing of his party who are looking for a much broader package of investments to pass under budget reconciliation rules and will the White House and Congress be able to come into agreement on whether to pay for the package and if so, how?
So here we are…at a crossroads of infrastructure or gridlock. A return to bipartisan legislating or a brand new “normal.” Ultimately, I honestly believe, bringing this article full circle, it will come down to you; the constituents, the voters, the citizen lobbyists making your voice heard. To give you some hope, let me share that a couple of years ago at our annual Legislative Conference we made one of our top priorities, sharing that in our belief “infrastructure” went beyond just roads and bridges and included things such as school buildings. Well fast forward to today and as a part of these infrastructure talks, school renovation and construction are right in the middle of the debate. Congress will listen and it is up to us to continue to drive the narrative forward.
NOTE – Starting in July our lobbying firm, The Keelen Group, has merged with another firm and will now be a part of the Vogel Group. Stephen Borg and Matt Keelen will continue to be our main lobbyists and point of contact, however, we will now be represented officially by The Vogel Group.