WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) – In a rare show of bipartisan support the Senate approved the Biden administration’s sweeping $1 trillion infrastructure plan Tuesday, following weeks of negotiations and legislative obstacles.
For President Biden, the 69-30 vote was evidence that such cooperation between Democrats and Republicans isn’t a thing of the past. “Today, we proved that democracy can still work,” Biden said during an address at the White House.
The bill now moves to the House for approval, which may not happen swiftly as Speaker Nancy Pelosi AND dozens of Progressive Caucus members have vowed not to vote on it until the Senate also approves a $3.5 trillion second package that is expected to draw substantial partisan debate.
“After years and years of infrastructure week, we’re on the cusp of an infrastructure decade,” Biden said on Tuesday, apparently referencing a running joke during the Trump administration that “Infrastructure Week” was always just around the corner.
The plan, one phase of Biden’s three-part “Build Back Better” agenda, earned the votes of 19 Republicans as communities across the country hope to rebuild the physical underpinnings of the country. Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema said it is rare that a piece of legislation might affect so many Americans.
How will the money be spent?
The plan proposes $550 billion in spending over five years on top of the federal money set aside for public works. Biden has compared the massive infusion of funds into the country’s aging infrastructure to monumental construction projects such as the transcontinental railroad or the U.S. highway system.
The money will be used to rebuild roads and bridges, fund electric vehicle charging stations, replace lead pipes used to carry drinking water, bolster coastal communities agains climate change, improve public transit, modernize the electric grid and help secure public utility systems against cyberattacks.
While the disrepair of of some aspects of the country were evident in dramatic bridge failures or cyberattacks on local governments, the COVID-19 pandemic also exposed the inequity of access to high speed internet in the U.S.
The bill provides $65 billion for broadband, which Maine Senator Susan Collins said “is no longer a luxury; it is a necessity.” The money has been budgeted for states to expand residents’ access to broadband and bring down the cost.
Electric vehicle infrastructure
The bill sets aside $7.5 billion to create a national network of EV chargers, according to a White House fact sheet. The money would go to the deployment of chargers along U.S. highways to facilitate long-distance travel, as well as in local communities.
The White House says the rollout will be aimed at rural, disadvantaged and hard-to-reach communities.
Another $5 billion will go to replacing school buses nationwide with no- and low-emission vehicles. The Biden administration notes that the programs are also designed to create the manufacturing jobs needed in the rollout.
Reducing emissions at transportation hubs
Citing the failure of U.S. airports to crack the ranking of the top 25 airports in the world, the White House says that $25 billion will be used to alleviate repair and maintenance backlogs, improve airport infrastructure and reduce emissions.
Another $17 billion is slated to overhaul the nation’s ports.
Amtrak will also see a $66 billion windfall meant to address maintenance backlogs, increase commuter safety and upgrade equipment.
Clean drinking water
The plan vows to replace all of the nation’s lead pipes and service lines, as well as remove chemical PFAs as part of a $55 billion investment.
“From rural towns to struggling cities, the deal invests in water infrastructure across America, including in Tribal Nations and disadvantaged communities that need it most,” the fact sheet reads.
According to the U.S. Water Alliance, more than 2 million Americans lack basic access to safe drinking water.
Electrify the power grid
In the wake of a deadly, widespread power outage in Texas, the infrastructure measure would infuse $60 billion into revamping the nation’s electric grid.
The money would go to building “thousands of miles of new, resilient transmission lines to facilitate the expansion of renewable energy.”
It would also create a Grid Deployment Authority that would work to improve and discover advanced sustainable energy sources.
Clean up polluted sites
The proposal sets aside $21 billion to clean up the thousands of former industrial and energy sites that continue to leach lead and other toxins. The government found that minority residents are disproportionately affected, with more than a quarter of all Black and Hispanic Americans living within 3 miles of a Superfund site.
The government is also investing billions to prepare U.S. cities and towns for extreme weather events tied to climate change.
The deal provides $50 billion to help weatherize the country against flooding and major storms, as well as to protect against devastating droughts.