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Saturday, November 06, 2021 11:58:58 AM

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'A monumental step forward': Biden hails House passage of $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill
by Bart Jansen, Savannah Behrmann and Ledyard King, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – After months of political wrangling, the House late Friday night passed a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill to modernize highways, rebuild water lines and provide billions for electric vehicle charging stations, the largest transportation spending package in U.S. history.

The passage is a victory for Democrats and President Joe Biden, who had suffered a stinging defeat in Tuesday's elections.

The bill, passed by the Senate in August, will now be sent to Biden who will sign it into law.

“Finally, infrastructure week! I’m so happy to say that,” a jubilant Biden said Saturday at the White House.

Biden called passage of the bill “a monumental step forward as a nation.”

“We did something that's long overdue, that long has been talked about in Washington but never actually been done," he said.

He said he would sign the bill soon but not this weekend.

The 228-206 vote followed bitter differences between Democratic progressives and moderates who clashed over the size and scope of Biden's $1.85 trillion Build Back Better budget bill that would expand social safety net programs and enact sweeping climate programs. The deal Democrats struck allowed passage of the infrastructure bill Friday and a promise that the larger bill would get a vote later this month.

Thirteen Republicans voted for the bipartisan legislation while six progressive Democrats voted against due to lack of movement Friday on the Build Back Better Act.

Biden referenced lessons from Democratic losses in Tuesday's elections, which some Democrats blamed on their failure to pass Biden's infrastructure and social-spending plans after months of messy negotiations.

"They want us to deliver," Biden said. "Last night, we proved we can. On one big item, we delivered."

Progressives had wanted enough assurances that moderate Democrats would back the social and climate bill before voting on the infrastructure bill. Their concern was that some more moderate lawmakers would vote for one bill and not the other, a scenario that could imperil passage because Democrats hold a very small advantage in the House.

In the end, Democrats said the prospect that the Build Back Better will finally get a vote is a game changer.

"We are on the doorstep of delivering once-in-a-generation legislation that builds on the New Deal and the promise that President Roosevelt made over 80 years ago," Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass., said before the vote.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., accompanied by House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., left and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer D-MD, speaks to reporters at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, before the House passed an historic infrastructure bill.
The infrastructure bill was the result of weeks of negotiations over the spring and summer between Republicans, Democrats and Biden. In August, the bill was approved in the Senate on a bipartisan 69-30 vote.

The bipartisan infrastructure bill would provide the largest investment in transit and water projects in history, the biggest investment in passenger railways since the creation of Amtrak and the most bridge investment since the creation of the interstate highway system, according to the White House.

The infrastructure bill would provide:
- $110 billion for roads and bridges. More than 45,000 bridges nationwide are rated in poor condition. The bill also includes $16 billion for major projects that are too large or complex for traditional funding.
- $66 billion for Amtrak for passenger and freight rail. The bill aims to eliminate Amtrak’s maintenance backlog and to modernize the Northeast Corridor.
- $65 billion to expand broadband internet access. The White House estimated as many as 40 million Americans lack broadband access. Biden initially sought $100 billion.
- $65 billion to rebuild the electric grid with renewable energy and thousands of miles of new power lines.
- $55 billion to upgrade water systems, with a goal of replacing the country’s lead service pipes.
- $42 billion for airports, waterways and port infrastructure. Airports would receive $25 billion.
- $39 billion for public transit. The bill aims to repair and upgrade transit systems and make stations more accessible to elderly and passengers with disabilities.
- $7.5 billion for charging stations for electric vehicles and $7.5 billion for electric buses.
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