17 Senate Republicans joined all 50 Democrats in a vote on Wednesday night to launch debate of Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill even though the full text of the proposal is unknown. During a private lunch, the GOP senators were given a thick binder of briefing materials, asking questions and seeking more details. Lead GOP negotiator Sen. Rob Portman, R-OH, announced the 67-32 agreement.
The vote comes one week after all Senate Republicans blocked a similar move after arguing that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, was hurrying the process towards finalizing the agreement. With the bill’s final text not yet completed, the Senate—which will now start debating the legislation—is taking up a shell bill that it will insert the language into once it is created. Schumer indicated he might hold the Senate in session over the weekend to complete the bill. Senate rules require 60 votes in the evenly split 50-50 chamber to proceed for consideration and ultimately pass this bill, meaning support from both parties.
The group of Republicans voted to advance the bill—which includes the largest federal investment ever made in public transit—in the Senate just hours after President Trump expressed his dismay over GOP lawmakers who might do so. Following the vote, Trump criticized the “weak leadership of Mitch McConnell,” adding Republicans need to “fight for America, not for special interests and Radical Democrats. RINOS are ruining America, right alongside Communist Democrats.” He issued another statement on Thursday:
In March, Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., remarked that “absolute socialism” is just around the corner in the United States if the bill passes. The lawmaker and real estate developer expressed concern over the nation’s debt as the White House contemplated how to fund the all-encompassing bill. Norman added:
“You can’t tax your way into prosperity. We’ve just come off the pandemic, people have been out of work. To impose these kind of tax increases—which is taking our money that we’ve earned and giving it to the government—is going to hurt. It’s going to hurt the whole country.”
Infrastructure to Democrats is a five lane highway to socialism.
— Rep Andy Biggs (@RepAndyBiggsAZ) June 29, 2021
“When Americans think of infrastructure they think of roads, bridges, and airports. Not unrealistic climate goals that increase our dependence on communist China or social welfare programs that the Far Left deems ‘human infrastructure’.”
White House Fact-Sheet of Proposed Infrastructure Bill
The White House issued a fact sheet on Wednesday which laid out how the bill—which will reportedly be funded in part by redirecting $205 billion in COVID-19 relief funds, the recollection of $50 billion in fraudulently paid pandemic unemployment benefits, and returned unused federal unemployment funds—with $550 billion in new spending, will be spent over the next decade if ultimately passed.
Roads, Bridges, and Major Projects
- $110 billion of new funds will go towards roads, bridges, and major projects, including $17.5 billion for “major projects” that are too complex for traditional funding programs “but will deliver significant economic benefits to communities.”
- The $40 billion for bridges is the single most significant dedicated bridge investment since the construction of the Interstate highway system.
- $11 billion of the funds will go towards transportation safety programs, including a new “Safe Streets for All” program to help states and localities reduce crashes and fatalities in their communities, especially for cyclists and pedestrians.
- $39 billion for public transit is in the bill. The money would be used to modernize bus and subway fleets and bring new services to communities. It will replace thousands of transit vehicles, including buses, with clean, zero-emission vehicles.
Passenger and Freight Rail
- $66 billion for passenger and freight rail. The money would be used to reduce Amtrak’s maintenance backlog, improve Amtrak’s 457-mile-long Northeast Corridor as well as other routes and make safety improvements to rail grade crossings.
- $7.5 billion for electric vehicle charging stations, which the administration says is critical to accelerating the use of electric cars to curb climate change.
- $5 billion to purchase electric school buses and hybrids, reducing reliance on school buses that run on diesel fuel.
- The deal creates a first-ever program to reconnect communities divided by transportation infrastructure. The program will fund planning, design, demolition, and reconstruction of street grids, parks, or other infrastructure through $1 billion of dedicated funding.
Airports, Ports, and Waterways
- $17 billion for ports and $25 billion for airports to reduce congestion, address maintenance backlogs, reduce congestion and emissions near ports and airports, and drive electrification and other low-carbon technologies.
Resilience and Western Water Infrastructure
- The deal makes our communities safer and our infrastructure more resilient to the impacts of climate change and cyberattacks, with an investment of over $50 billion. It includes funds to protect against droughts and floods, in addition to a significant investment in weatherization. The bill is the largest investment in the resilience of physical and natural systems in American history.
Clean Drinking Water
- $55 billion for water and wastewater infrastructure, including funding to replace all of the nation’s service lines using lead pipe and PFAS.
- $65 billion to expand broadband access, a particular problem for rural areas and tribal communities. Most of the money would be made available through grants to states. It will also help close the digital divide by passing the Digital Equity Act, ending digital redlining, and creating a permanent program to help more low-income households access the internet.
- The deal invests $21 billion in environmental remediation, making the largest investment in addressing the legacy pollution that harms the public health of communities and neighborhoods in American history, creating good-paying union jobs in hard-hit energy communities, and advancing economic and environmental justice. The bill includes funds to clean up superfund and brownfield sites, reclaim abandoned mine land, and cap orphaned gas wells.
- $73 billion for modernizing the nation’s electric grid and expanding the use of renewable energy. It upgrades our power infrastructure, including by building thousands of miles of new, resilient transmission lines to facilitate the expansion of renewable energy.
I voted no on #infrastructure a week ago because there was no legislative text.
My mind hasn’t changed. There’s still no legislative text or explanation on how to pay for a $1T infrastructure plan.
— Tim Scott (@SenatorTimScott) July 28, 2021
Wednesday’s agreement, which only pushes the bipartisan infrastructure package toward consideration by the full Senate, sets the stage for the subsequent debate over Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending package that touches almost every facet of American life. That bill is strongly opposed by the GOP, who may ultimately try and stop both bills. A pleased Joe Biden welcomed the unity, declaring that “This deal signals to the world that our democracy can function. We will once again transform America and propel us into the future.”
A core group of Senators negotiating the package, which includes five Democrats and five Republicans, agreed to a framework with Biden over a month ago. Since then, White House officials and the group have met to iron out details on paying for the proposal. In the last few days, the group worked to resolve issues concerning the nation’s public transit system and broadband infrastructure.
There was a good reason for the 17 Republicans who voted to advance the bipartisan infrastructure bill, writes @conncarroll.
Republicans have strengthened the ability of centrist Senate Democrats to say “no” to Biden’s more damaging $3.5 trillion bill.https://t.co/PJRGKkH8As
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) July 29, 2021
Arguments of the definition of infrastructure have persisted throughout the discussion over Biden’s proposal. In April, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-LA., expressed his frustration over the proposal, remarking:
“Frankly, when you look at the socialist agenda being pushed [by] Speaker Pelosi and President Biden, people are turning away from it. They’re talking about an infrastructure bill. It’s Soviet-style infrastructure, what they’re talking about. Over 90% of the bill they’re proposing has nothing to do with roads and bridges. People would expect, if you’re gonna have a $2 trillion bill, that it would be all about roads and bridges. Theirs is not. It’s a lot of Green New Deal, expanding the role of the federal government.”