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Washington

Congress passes spending bill with $21 billion for infrastructure, increased leverage for BDCs

The House of Representatives passed a $1.3 trillion spending package Thursday with $21.2 billion in new infrastructure dollars.

The package also targets perceived regulatory burdens at the Securities and Exchange Commission, and prohibits the agency from requiring the disclosure of political contributions in SEC filings.

The Senate followed suit in approving the bill early Friday to prevent a government shutdown, by a 65-32 vote.

The measure, approved in the House by a vote of 256-167 with bipartisan approval, "makes major investments in infrastructure across the board, whether it is transportation, energy, water or cyber," said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J.

A last-minute addition to the spending bill also eases borrowing rules for business development companies, investment companies controlled by private equity firms, so they could borrow $2 for every $1 of assets owned instead of the current 1-to-1 ratio.

Cybersecurity measures in the spending bill include $45 million for measures at the SEC "to prevent cybercrime and intrusion." The SEC gains $47 million more than last year's budget to improve transparency, totaling $1.65 billion for salaries and expenses, with a new requirement to take steps to "stop overly burdensome regulation." Among other things, it calls for a report to Congress on the cost and regulatory burdens of the Dodd-Frank Act, and blocks the SEC from mandating that companies disclose political spending.

The $21.2 billion in new infrastructure funding in fiscal year 2018 represents a $12.6 billion increase over fiscal-year 2017 requests. That includes $8.7 billion for highways, roads and bridges, and another $1 billion for discretionary airport improvement grants targeting small and rural airports. Another $1 billion would go to Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, discretionary grant program for innovative projects grants to fund critical transportation projects identified by state and local communities, with at least 30% of funds going to rural communities. Rural broadband expansion projects gain $625 million. The rest of the earmarked infrastructure spending is on the Appropriations Committee website.