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The Biden administration finally got a bipartisan win in the Senate after the long-awaited infrastructure bill passed. During the months of negotiations and debate, the $1 trillion spending package seemed as though it would not succeed, but 69 senators voted yay, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) included, on Aug. 10, 2021.
U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo praised the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act as historic. She thanked the “unwavering commitment of the Republican and Democratic Senators” and complimented the president’s belief that bipartisanship was attainable.
As expected with this type of Act, $268 billion is earmarked for rebuilding America’s deteriorating roads, bridges, railways, ports, and waterways. It also includes investment in road safety, airport, public transit.
Another $128 billion will aid the power and water infrastructures. A slice of the budget, $21 billion, will clean up abandoned wells and mines and cleanup of toxic waste in Superfund sites under the Environmental Protection Agency.
The bill provides the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) with about $3 billion for climate science and services to tackle climate change. These funds are earmarked for increasing infrastructure strength by restoring and improving coastal habitats.
One of the bill’s historic investments is funding the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). Senator’s approved more than $48 billion to aid state and local investments to attain 100 percent access to high-speed broadband service.
While the price tag for the NTIA seems steep, nearly 23 percent of people in the United States are without a wired broadband connection, according to 2019 census data. In addition, the FCC reports residents in rural areas — nearly one-quarter of the population, and in tribal areas, another one-third do not have access to fixed broadband.
Finally, the infrastructure legislation provides for making the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) permanent instead of the way the 50-year-old agency requires periodic renewal. This change will enhance the agency’s “ability to promote and administer its flagship programs to promote the growth, development, and resiliency of minority-owned businesses,” explains Raimondo’s press statement.
House of Representatives Places Conditions on Its Approval of Senate’s Infrastructure Package
The infrastructure legislation now moves to the House of Representatives, which is not expected to pass.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the 95-member Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) have vowed to nix the bill unless the Senate reciprocates with a social policy bill of $3.5 trillion passed this fall to fund health care, education, child care, and programs to address the climate crisis.
Each of these was in the first draft of the infrastructure proposal, encompassing the balance of the president’s economic agenda.
Speaker Pelosi says she will not bring the infrastructure bill to the floor for consideration, somewhat akin to McConnell’s handling of bills when he was the Senate Majority Leader under the Donald Trump administration. The speaker’s tepid reception left moderate Democrats disappointed.
The CPC’s ultimatum drew the ire of at least eight moderate Democrats. Jared Golden (Maine) and Josh Gottheimer (New Jersey) signed a letter that calls for a swift vote on the historic bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
Others of President Joe Biden’s party members did not pay tribute to this big win for Americans. The passing of today’s legislation needs more than Pelosi’s half-hearted acknowledgment:
Whatever you can achieve in a bipartisan way — bravo, we salute it. But at the same time, we’re not going forward with leaving people behind.
However, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he plans to immediately address the $3.5 trillion budget plan, replete with policies addressing the climate crisis, health, education, paid leave, basically everything dropped from the original infrastructure proposal before negotiating the current bill passed by the Senate.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
The New York Times: Senate Passes $1 Trillion Infrastructure Bill, Handing Biden a Bipartisan Win; by Emily Cochrane
The New York Times: Live Updates – Infrastructure Bill: The Senate passes the infrastructure bill, and turns to the Democratic budget; by Emily Cochrane
U.S. Department of Commerce: Statement from U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo Following Senate Passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act
Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Oregon Department of Transportation’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
First Inset Image Courtesy of Dan Jeffrey’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Second Inset Image Courtesy of Gage Skidmore’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License