Massive infrastructure and budget bills that represented a major part of President Joe Biden’s campaign cleared the U.S. Senate this week.
Now the battle over fixing the nation’s ailing bridges, roads, pipes, internet and other domestic spending priorities moves to the U.S. House after the Senate approved the $1 trillion infrastructure bill in a rare bipartisan 69-30 vote on Tuesday.
In a speech at the White House on Tuesday, the president called it “a historic investment,” comparing the deal to building the Erie Canal in the early 1800s, the Transcontinental Railroad during the Civil War and Dwight Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway System in the 1950s.
“It makes key investments that will … create millions of good union jobs all across the country in cities, small towns, rural and Tribal communities,” Biden said. “This bill is going to put people to work modernizing our roads and our highways and our bridges so commuters and truckers don’t lose time in traffic, saving billions of dollars nationally.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and 18 other Republicans voted with Democrats to pass the massive infrastructure bill.
McConnell said in a statement he was proud to support the plan “and prove that both sides of the political aisle can still come together around common sense solutions.
“By promoting sensible, collaborative legislation, we have shown that the Senate still works as an institution,” the Republican continued.
The $1 trillion deal would provide $110 billion for new roads, bridges and similar projects; $39 billion for public transportation and billions on airports, high-speed internet, expanding electric vehicles, environmental cleanup and eliminating lead service lines and chemicals in drinking water, according to a breakdown of the bill from Vox Media.
But the rare display of bipartisanship was short lived.
Almost immediately after the infrastructure vote, the Senate again splintered into disagreement, pushing through a separate $3.5 trillion budget bill over the objection of Republicans who opposed increasing the safety net as reckless despite Democrats’ assurances that the plan will pay for itself by raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy.
“This was one of the most significant legislative days’ we’ve had for a long time here in the United States Senate,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said during a news conference on Wednesday. “But we still have a long road to travel. It’s as if we caught a pass, a nice long pass at mid-field. But we still have 50 yards to go before we score a touchdown. But it’s still good to make that pass and make that advance.
“What we saw yesterday is very simple. Elections matter, the American people’s votes matter, and Democrats are working hard to keep the promises we made to the American people when we won the majority,” the Democrat continued.
Part of the difficulty of the next 50 yards likely will revolve around whether moderate Democrats get on board with significant spending that could raise the national deficit by $256 billion over the next ten years, according to an analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
The University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Wharton Budget Model projected it would mean $548 billion in new infrastructure investment, $351 billion of which would result in deficit spending, the New York Times reported.
According to the Times, the Senate-approved budget would also mean “the largest expansion of the federal safety net in nearly six decades.”
It would expand health care, offer free community college and preschool and help fund the fight against climate change, the Times reported. But it faces a difficult fight in the House.
Still, the infrastructure bill represented a significant victory for Democrats although it was less than the $2.2 trillion American Jobs Plan Biden proposed in the spring, the Washington Post reported.
The president said in a statement it will help eliminate lead pipes in 10 million homes across the country and 400,000 schools and childcare centers that “present danger to the health of America.”
It also will “put plumbers and pipefitters to work” in replacing lead service lines and expand access to broadband internet services at a time when “we saw too many families forced to sit — literally sit — in their vehicles in a fast food parking lot so their children could get on the Internet they couldn’t afford and didn’t have access to at home,” Biden said.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said during a news conference Tuesday that Biden will work “in lockstep” with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over the coming several weeks to pass the $1 trillion infrastructure bill through the House and the larger $3.5 trillion budget bill.
“And he is confident in the leadership, the strategic approach of Speaker Pelosi and looks forward to being her partner in the weeks ahead,” Psaki said.
U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo praised the Senate vote in a statement issued Tuesday.
“The investments in this bill will better position the United States to compete globally, strengthen our supply chains, and create millions of good-paying jobs — all while making our economy more resilient and just,” Raimondo said.