Maryland Gov. Moore Calls on Congress to Pass Bipartisan Bridge Reconstruction Bill

Arjun Singh
By Arjun Singh
July 10, 2024Politics
Maryland Gov. Moore Calls on Congress to Pass Bipartisan Bridge Reconstruction Bill
Maryland Gov. Wes Moore (C) and lawmakers speak during a press conference about rebuilding the Francis Scott Key Bridge at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on April 9, 2024. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore (D) on July 8 called on Congress to pass a bipartisan bill to fund the reconstruction of the Francis Scott Key Bridge over Baltimore’s harbor after it collapsed when a container ship hit it on March 26.

“This is something that’s … a priority for this country, for our economic growth and development,” Moore told The Epoch Times in an interview.

Mr. Moore and federal officials, such as President Joe Biden, have insisted that the federal government fund the reconstruction of the bridge, which carries highway traffic on the heavily traveled Interstate 95 network around Baltimore.

The Biden administration on June 28 submitted a $4 billion funding request to Congress, including $3.1 billion to fully pay for rebuilding the bridge. The request has faced skepticism from some Republicans in the House of Representatives, where they have a majority and could block the bill.

“Congress still has roughly six months to act before any cost-share changes might occur,” said Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) in May, the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which would have jurisdiction over the bill. Republicans are concerned about cost estimates for the bridge’s reconstruction.

“It’s important we have a very firm estimate before we take any further action,” he said.

Mr. Moore said that passing the president’s request would be the most bipartisan act that Congress could accomplish in its remaining time this session. “Pass the Baltimore Bridge Act, making sure that we can get the 100 percent cost-share for the Baltimore Bridge,” Mr. Moore told The Epoch Times.

A lot of people, he said, are going to benefit from the measure. “But we’ve still got to make sure that we can move fast. I think that’s something we can do on a bipartisan basis,” he added.

Maryland is currently evaluating proposals for the bridge’s reconstruction, which is planned to be completed by 2028. Current debates about funding relate to whether the federal government will fully pay the eventual bill and cover other costs, such as insurance and maritime liability claims that have been filed due to damage and disruptions from the collapse.

The House Freedom Caucus, a group of conservative legislators that supports reducing government spending, has issued a series of conditions on supporting any bill to fund reconstruction. These include lifting the Biden administration’s pause on liquefied natural gas exports, a waiver of environmental and labor union construction requirements, as well as the “seeking of maximum liability from foreign shipping companies.”

Maryland’s congressional delegation introduced The Baltimore BRIDGE Relief Act in the Senate and a similar bill in the House that would act on Democratic demands for a 100 percent cost-share, though they do not meet the Freedom Caucus’s criteria.

“Senator Cardin and Team Maryland will continue to work every legislative vehicle to pass the Baltimore BRIDGE Relief Act in its current form,” wrote Sue Walitsky, a spokesperson for Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), the bill’s sponsor, to The Epoch Times when asked about whether it would be amended to meet Republican demands.

Should Congress pass an omnibus bill to fund the government for 2025, it may provide the “legislative vehicle” that Ms. Walitsky described, which would breach the Freedom Caucus’s criteria.

Some executive branch officials have expressed that in addition to the federal government, other parties might partially pay for the bridge. “We can pretty much with certainty guarantee this will not be 100 percent federally funded, eventually, because we will recoup all the insurance payments,” said Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Administrator Shailen Bhatt in testimony before Congress in May.

“It’s my intention that federal government will pay for the entire cost of reconstructing that bridge, and I expect the Congress to support my effort,” Mr. Biden remarked in an address on the day the bridge collapsed. He reiterated his support for the idea in a subsequent visit to the bridge.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who has co-sponsored the bill, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

From The Epoch Times