We mostly like to report on the facts when it comes to the news and allow our readers to reach their own conclusions. The recent news about the Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America (INVEST in America) Act may leave truckers worried about how it impacts the Hours-of-Service reform that would otherwise establish in late September. It is possible that it can become law, but here is why we are not worried.
The Constitutional Process
The bill was introduced into the House by the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The Committee is run majorly by Democrats, at a split of 36-28.
To pass the House of Representatives, the bill would need to obtain a simple majority “yea” vote. If all representatives attended the vote, this would be 218 votes out of 435 possible votes.
There are 235 Democrat seats in the House. Of course, the reality is much more nuanced than this, with some Democrats voting “nay” and some Republicans voting “yea”, but speaking in the most general terms, especially with today’s heated political climate, members vote along party lines.
So the bill passes the House and needs to go to the Senate. It will encounter a little more resistance there, with 53 Republican seats. This would mean for a simple majority, assuming full attendance, at least four Republicans would have to vote “yea”, with another Republican senator voting “yea” for each Democrat that votes “nay”.
Assuming the bill does not die in the Senate, it would then go to the president’s desk. Donald Trump would almost certainly veto the bill in its current state. While additional infrastructure spending is a worthy investment that the United States needs, Trump is aware of how unpopular the suspension of HoS reform is among truck drivers, and how truckers vote overwhelmingly for Trump. Wanting a second term in office, Trump knows signing the bill into law would be political suicide.
Congress can override a veto from the president, but to do so requires a higher threshold of approval: a two-thirds majority. Essentially, the president has voting power equal to about 65 Representatives and 15 Senators. Considering the Bill would have to struggle to pass the Senate even with a simple majority, its chances of passing with two-thirds support is even slimmer.
To summarize, to become law and block HoS reform, the bill would have to:
- Pass through the House of Representatives (likely).
- Pass through the Senate (unlikely).
- Become approved by the president (very unlikely) or
- Pass through both the House and Senate with a supermajority of 66% (nearly impossible).
A bill will need to eventually be passed, the current highway funding law expires September 30th (but can be extended further). To obtain more approval from across the aisle, Democrats may modify the bill to make it more appetizing for Republican congressmen, most notably by removing the sections blocking HoS reform. Funding highways for trucking parking spaces and road repair is a bipartisan issue, so reworking the bill to be more favorable to truckers can help it easily become law.