Infrastructure Priorities Emerge From Election 2020

After one of the most contentious elections in recent memory, former Vice President Joe Biden has been projected as the winner and is expected to be inaugurated as 46th President of the United States in January 2021.

Though Republican legal challenges are ongoing at the time of writing and President Trump has yet to concede, several states have already begun certifying their results – the first step in officially declaring Biden as President-elect. As a consequence of President Trump having yet to concede, as of press time the transition process was not yet fully underway; however, Biden’s transition team is moving forward and has already put together a Coronavirus task force to immediately address the pandemic as soon as he is sworn in on Jan. 20.

Biden’s apparent margin-of-victory was much slimmer than many political pundits had predicted, and though Democrats remain in control of the House and picked up at least one seat in the Senate, Republicans had a far better night than expected.

The GOP appears in a strong position to maintain control of the Senate, pending two Jan. 5 runoff elections to be held in Georgia. Notably, Democrats only managed to pick off two of their priority Senate targets – Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), while losing Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) – a result many Democrats consider a disappointing underperformance due to their failure to take the Senate.

Georgia now becomes the center of the political universe until Jan. 5, as the state heads to two U.S. Senate run-off elections. The outcome of both races will determine control of the Senate chamber – Democrats would need to win both to gain control of the upper chamber, with the Vice President casting the tie-breaking vote. Preliminary polling suggests both races will come down to the wire; while conventional wisdom would hold that Republicans are favored in one or both of the elections, Georgia’s apparent swing to Joe Biden in the November general election has called that into question. Either way, whichever party wins these elections will hold the narrowest of Senate majorities – effectively allowing nearly any member of the majority to block legislation.

Republicans were able to reverse many of Democrat’s 2018 gains in the House, leaving Speaker Pelosi with a very narrow majority. House Republican defied expectations and gained seats – including that held by longtime Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN-07), chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.

Democrats ran on a broadly ambitious agenda – including the promise of a major infrastructure package in early 2021 – but it is unclear how much they will be able to accomplish legislatively without control of the Senate. Unless bipartisan agreements can be reached, a Biden Administration may be forced to shape policy through regulations and Executive Orders rather than legislation. The reduced likelihood of major legislative packages suggests many legislative aims will need to be accomplished via targeted legislation, as has been the case since the Democrats flipped the House in 2018.

The new 117th Congress will immediately start at noon on Jan. 3, 2021, as per Article 1, Section 2 of our Constitution. All legislation from the previous session ends, and all new bills must be filed. Inauguration Day is Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021.

Regardless of who holds the levers of power, our infrastructure issues in 2021 will have to be a priority of the next Administration and Congress. Both parties recognize that infrastructure can deliver a powerful boost to a weakened economy through new jobs and new projects. Both Republicans and Democrats know that much of our 1.6 million miles of underground water and wastewater are nearing the end of their projected lifespans. And with the massive increase of broadband use over the last year to keep our economy functioning, better and faster fiber-optic cables are needed to handle this massive increase in usage. Billions of dollars are needed to make these goals come to fruition, and NUCA will be seeking the resources to fund these urgent requirements in 2021’s legislation.

Our essential industry will play a key role in the American recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and building a robust infrastructure network for every American community. NUCA will be in the forefront reminding our elected officials of that simple fact and advising them on how we can help America recover.

Eben Wyman, Principal, and Zack Perconti, Associate, are with NUCA’s Government Affairs.