"We're very concerned about having the emphasis being on large urban corridors," Lummis said in an interview. "We're also worried about, in the $1.9 trillion bill, the way the formula is crafted. Most of the money for states would go to states like Illinois, New York and California because it's related to unemployment numbers. The reason those states have high unemployment numbers is because they left their states buttoned up and closed."
"States that opened their economies and managed COVID to the best of their abilities are actually punished for doing so," she said.
A USA Today analysis of early 2020 federal coronavirus aid, which had a similar distribution formula, found that the metric was "crude" and often did not meet states' needs. However, the analysis pointed out that while Wyoming did receive the least funds (an estimated $3 billion in economic relief as of June), the state also received a relatively large amount of general economic relief per unemployment claim.
Lummis criticized the Democrats' aid package as "just a big spending bill" ahead of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee's first hearing on transportation investment of 2021 on Wednesday.
"I'm hopeful there will be some runway left on spending after they push through this $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill. … It's just a big spending bill," Lummis said. "Much of it is for spending '22 to '28. ... The problem will be if the Senate Democrats jam through, on a partisan vote, the $1.9 trillion in spending, will there be any room left for an infrastructure?"
Wednesday's hearing, titled "Building Back Better: Investing in Transportation while Addressing Climate Change, Improving Equity, and Fostering Economic Growth and Innovation," will feature witnesses, including Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican.
Lummis said she's hopeful Republicans and Democrats on the committee can work together, and pointed to a bipartisan bill authorizing $287 billion over five years for bridge and road repair that cleared the Environment and Public Works Committee.
"We will be looking at that bill as template," Lummis said. "That's going to be very important that we bridge the big state-small state divide."
Lummis highlighted Interstate 80 in Wyoming as an example.
"Interstate 80, which is one of the key corridors for interstate commerce, trucking goods and materials across this country, is a significant benefit for the whole country that is provided by my state," she said. "Absolutely, I’ll be looking for protecting rural mass transportation corridors."
Lummis is the only senator who sits on the Environment and Public Works Committee, the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, and the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and says she's uniquely positioned to influence transportation and infrastructure. Biden is expected to drop a big infrastructure plan in the coming weeks, according to the Detroit Free Press.