IIJA vs BIL: What’s In a Name?

President Biden signed H.R. 3684 into law on November 15. And section 1(a) of the law (Public Law 117-58) states: “SHORT TITLE.—This Act may be cited as the ‘Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act’.” The day of the bill signing, the White House press office sent out not one but two different announcements citing the bill/law with the IIJA short title. The official announcement from the Office of the Federal Register giving it a law number cited the IIJA short title.

The IIJA short title was placed on the bill by Senators Sinema and Portman when they introduced their substitute amendment version of the bill (SA 2137) on August 1 (and it had been attached to several informal drafts we had seen floating around a day or two prior to that).

But since the law was enacted, it’s as if the IIJA title has been banned within the Administration, in favor of the apt but extralegal “Bipartisan Infrastructure Law” (BIL). This started with a White House fact sheet on November 16, “The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Advances Environmental Justice,” and was followed up at the Department of Transportation two days later when they sent out their 50-state fact sheets on the legislation under the BIL title, not the IIJA title.

When the lawyers were involved, IIJA retained currency, as in Executive Order 14052 on November 18.

But the messaging from the White House is all-BIL, all the time, as in the new central web portal they have put up under the header “President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law” at https://www.whitehouse.gov/bipartisan-infrastructure-law/

At the Department of Transportation, on November 29 they published a notice in the Federal Register, the first sentence of which was “The recently enacted Bipartisan Infrastructure Law invests in the deployment of electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure as one of many important ways to confront the climate crisis.”

More permanently, this week the Federal Highway Administration released its web portal to host all its information on the bill going forward. Compare it with the FHWA portals for previous authorization bills, by their legal short title:

Why the semi-official policy to use BIL instead of IIJA?

Could the problem be Irish?

If you see the letter “i” twice in a row in a word, how do you pronounce it – “eye,” or “eee”? Because, if you pronounce it “eee,” then IIJA is pronounced “EEE-jah” which is perilously close to how the Irish pronounce the word “idiot” (EEE-jit).

(Ed. Note: Speaking of that sound you get when the letter “i” appears twice together in an acronym, I will simply repeat what I wrote in the August 3, 2009 issue of Transportation Weekly, when the Senate Appropriations Committee had released a bill appropriating, for the first time, funding for a program that has been in every USDOT funding bill since under the heading “National Infrastructure Investments” (NII): we hope the acronym has staying power because of the Monty Python and the Holy Grail references it would create, viz. The Knights Who Say “Ni”. (Those who hear them seldom live to tell the tale.) In the 12 years since then, USDOT has successively created three different extralegal acronyms to use for the program instead of trying to pronounce NII: TIGER, BUILD, and RAISE.)

It is much more likely that the White House has simply decreed that the bipartisan nature of the legislation is so politically important that it needs to be drummed into the heads of everyone over and over between now and the midterm elections. It also tacitly admits that the job creation aspects of the legislation are not as politically salient during a labor shortage and the resurgence of inflation as they were during the tail end of a high-unemployment recession when the legislation was first thought up.

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