2024 House THUD Bill Highlights:
The House Appropriations Committee released the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies bill allocating a total of $90.243 billion in discretionary funds, which is 8.7% less than what was requested in the President's Budget. Specific to the Department of Transportation, the bill provides discretionary monies totaling $21.574 billion, which is $7.161 billion below the FY23 enacted level. Taken together with $79.342 billion in obligation limitation for highway trust fund programs, the bill provides $100.915 billion in total budgetary capabilities to improve safety and overall efficacy of our nation’s transportation system.
The entire bill itself, the actual cost to taxpayers under the Subcommittee's allocation is $65.208 billion, with $25.035 billion being offset by cutting excessive spending on IRS enforcement. This represents a 25% reduction from the FY23 enacted level and a 34% reduction from the President's Budget Request. The bill allocates $89.855 billion for non-defense discretionary spending and $388 million for defense discretionary spending. It places a focus on safety in transportation, including highways, railways, and aviation, while also maintaining support for housing assistance for vulnerable individuals and families in our nation.
Some key takeaways TIA wanted to highlight include the following:
- $60,834,782, 888 available from Highway Trust Fund until expended.
- Prohibits FMCSA from requiring inward facing cameras as a condition for participation in truck driver apprenticeship program.
- Prohibits use of funds being used for electronic logging devices (ELDs) for carriers moving livestock.
- Prohibits use of funds for speed limiters in trucks exceeding 26,000 lbs.
- Full contract authority granted to the FMCSA over $891.3 million for pertinent projects.
- $5.3 million to launch a nationwide dashboard for shippers and carriers to track realtime supply chain movements and better respond to bottlenecks.
- $43.7 million for the Federal Maritime Commission for pertinent projects.
- $60.835 billion in highway trust fund programs, and halts funding for discretionary highway programs almost identical to the advanced appropriations provided by the IIJA.
Chinese to Factor in on Electric Car Rules in America:
President Biden's Treasury Department is preparing to make a consequential decision that could affect the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) and fuel criticism regarding U.S. policies benefiting China. The decision is expected to show how strictly the department will enforce regulations related to EV batteries containing components from adversarial nations like China. This is a significant issue as it relates to the EV tax incentives outlined in Biden's climate legislation and could influence the transition of trucks to electric as well.
The EV tax credit, which can be worth up to $7,500 per vehicle, is a key part of the administration's strategy to promote EV adoption. However, the law prohibits these incentives for vehicles with batteries containing parts or minerals from hostile nations, aiming to reduce China's dominance in the industry and promote a domestic supply chain.
The Treasury Department's decision has far-reaching implications for Biden's efforts to convince voters that tackling climate change will also create jobs, particularly in states like Michigan that are crucial for his re-election campaign. The uncertainty surrounding this decision is causing a freeze in private investment in U.S. EV manufacturing.
The rules on battery components and minerals have already limited tax credit eligibility to just 22 vehicle models from manufacturers like Tesla, Ford, GM, Nissan, and Volkswagen. Depending on how strictly the Treasury interprets the ban on Chinese suppliers, this list could shrink substantially because automakers are still working on developing domestic supply chains for EV batteries.
The administration faces political pressure to appear tough on China, especially concerning EVs, given accusations from Republicans that Biden's EV goals benefit Beijing. However, a strict interpretation of the law's prohibition on "foreign entities of concern" could conflict with global supply chain realities, where China plays a significant role.
The Treasury's guidance, which is expected by the end of the year, will address key questions, such as the acceptable threshold for battery content from prohibited countries and what constitutes a "foreign entity of concern." Automakers are pushing for flexibility in regulations, such as a "de minimis" threshold for trace amounts of parts or minerals from Chinese suppliers, but any leniency could face opposition from China hawks in Congress.
Overall, automakers and EV advocates are eager for clarity and guidance from the Treasury Department to ensure a smoother transition toward complying with the new regulations, as investment decisions for future EVs are being made now.
House Republicans Skeptical of Potential Amtrak Cuts:
House Republicans are facing division over a transportation funding bill, H.R. 4820, set to cut over $1 billion from Amtrak. The bill also reduces funding for grant programs at the Department of Transportation and sustainability-related transportation initiatives supported by the Biden administration. The proposed Amtrak cuts have garnered opposition from some House Republicans, especially those representing districts in or near Amtrak's busy Northeast Corridor.
In September, a group of eight Republicans, along with numerous Democrats, sent a letter protesting the rail cuts, which could potentially jeopardize the funding bill if all Democrats join the opposition.
Some Republicans, like Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-1st/PA), have expressed readiness to vote against the bill if the Amtrak cuts remain. Others, including Rep. Marc Molinaro (R-19th/NY) and Rep. Don Bacon (R-2nd/NE), have voiced concerns but haven't explicitly stated they will vote against it.
The bill allocates $99 million for the Northeast Corridor and $776 million for the nationwide Amtrak network in fiscal year 2024, totaling around $876 million. In contrast, the Senate's THUD appropriations bill, which recently passed, provides $1.14 billion for the Northeast Corridor and $1.31 billion for the national network, maintaining a funding level similar to fiscal year 2023.
The House bill faces challenges in becoming law, given Senate and White House opposition. The upcoming vote will test Speaker Mike Johnson's (R-4th/LA) ability to unify House GOP members, especially those in swing districts, on transportation funding districts.