Last Congress, Washington did what few thought was possible – they passed multiple historic bills that will profoundly reshape the DC landscape for years to come. With over $1 trillion in combined spending, there are few sectors untouched by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).
However, as these things go in DC, the landscape has shifted since these bills passed with a new Congress upon us and an upcoming presidential election. The two bills loom over this Congress as Republicans and Democrats determine how to address these big-ticket items. Do Republicans take victory laps over infrastructure dollars in their home state, especially when they didn’t vote for the bill? Do Democrats break through to voters about the broad use of funding within the IRA, when direct impacts will be hard to explain?
Last Congress’s big bills cleared the deck for the 118th Congress, but will have lasting impacts forcing elected officials to continue to address IRA and IIJA. How both parties decide to approach these challenges and opportunities will determine whose message breaks through and how voters view the impact of these bills after a few years of separation.
As of now, we see the following areas most impacted by passage of IIJA and IRA:
Bipartisan wins could be more likely. Many legacy bills that need to be reintroduced from last Congress are now facing rewrites since programs have substantially more funding from these two bills. Offices are in the process of rewriting legislation that was introduced last Congress given the influx of previously distributed funds sitting in different agencies. Especially with bills led by Democrats, this could be an opportunity to facilitate bipartisan wins with no-cost, commonsense legislative solutions.
House Republicans will have to decide how to balance IRA oversight with legislative priorities. House Republicans are eager to highlight wasteful spending stemming from IRA. However, oversight hearings and the attention chairs place on this work could take away from legislative priorities within each committee. The House Energy and Commerce committee managed to thread this needle with H.R. 1 by pushing for energy reform while targeting specific IRA provisions to roll back. Look to other committees to try to replicate where they have jurisdiction.
Partisan priorities could be upended by unintended consequences of IIJA and IRA. While champions of each bill and the White House heralded passage of IIJA and IRA, we are officially in the season of somewhat messy implementation. A few early examples, such as limited materials for electric vehicles and a still finite supply of renewable energy with an ambitious goal to electrify more sectors, will lead to hard answers as states and local decisionmakers have to make hard decisions about where to invest resources. Similarly, the Build America, Buy America provision within IIJA is slowing down projects where materials are either not available or are exorbitantly more expensive, will make it difficult for the administration to spend down the funds. This will likely be up to the Biden Administration to make hard choices about how to administer these programs in the near future but could reach a point where clarifying legislation is needed and Congress will have to make hard decisions about the fate of certain programs.