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House Dems Vote to Categorize Art as Infrastructure

'We need real solutions to the real infrastructure problems facing America today,' says GOP Rep. Sam Graves

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• June 10, 2021 3:15 pm

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A group of House Democrats voted against an amendment to a $547 billion infrastructure bill that would prohibit the use of federal transit funds to buy artwork.

Three dozen Democrats on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee voted on Wednesday to reject the amendment offered by Rep. Bob Gibbs (R., Ohio). 

The measure would have upheld a bipartisan 2016 law barring the use of Federal Transit Administration grant money to incorporate "art or non-functional landscaping" into public transit facilities. Committee Democrats' INVEST in America Act—which calls for more than $200 billion in transit and rail spending—would eliminate the prohibition.

Rep. Sam Graves (R., Mo.), the top Republican on the committee, called it "embarrassing" that "liberals can't even agree that art isn't infrastructure." 

"It might make someone feel good to see a nice sculpture when they walk into a metro station, but we need real solutions to the real infrastructure problems facing America today," Graves told the Washington Free Beacon. "We don't need to waste tax dollars on transit facility art projects when our infrastructure is literally falling down in some cases."

One committee Democrat—Georgia congresswoman Carolyn Bourdeaux—voted with Republicans to maintain the spending ban.

While the INVEST in America Act is separate from President Joe Biden's $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal, the House bill mirrors many of Biden's alternative energy objectives. It allocates $4 billion toward electric vehicle charging infrastructure, $8.3 billion for "activities targeted to reduce carbon pollution," and $6.2 billion for "mitigation and resiliency improvements," according to a fact sheet.

Republican members criticized the environmental spending provisions during Wednesday's committee markup session.

"Two percent of the vehicles in America today are electric. Two percent. Two," Rep. Garret Graves (R., La.) said. "And we're going to spend a billion dollars a year on charging stations?"

Committee Democrats voted Thursday morning to advance the bill, which the full House will now consider.