The Senate advanced a $1 trillion infrastructure bill on Wednesday, reaching a bipartisan agreement that will advance the bill closer to formal debate and possible passage.
The Senate voted 67-32 to open further debate over the measure and outline the text of the bill, which remains largely unwritten. After months of bipartisan negotiations in the House and Senate, the bill won the support of all 48 Democrats, two independents (who caucus with the Democrats) and 17 Republicans in the Senate.
The bill, if passed, would put $550 billion in new spending into transportation, broadband and structure improvement nationwide. Senators negotiated early Wednesday to cut billions in spending, trimming the bill down from $579 billion in new spending that was initially pitched by President Joe Biden and a group of bipartisan lawmakers last month.
While the plan is coming in slightly under the initial $1.2 trillion originally proposed, President Biden praised the Senate’s procedural passage on Wednesday. The Senate’s vote will allow the bill to be amended and further discussed before reaching the president’s desk.
“We’ve reached a historic deal on infrastructure, folks,” the president wrote in a tweet Wednesday. “The Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal is the largest infrastructure bill in a century. It will grow the economy, create good-paying jobs and set America on a path to win the future.”
Senate Republicans blocked a vote over the bill last week, citing concerns about a lack of bill text and funding details. While many details pertaining to transit and broadband are still forthcoming, senators leading the negotiations say the legislative text will be completed soon.
The agreement, as it currently stands, includes $110 billion for roads, $73 billion for the power grid, $66 billion for railways, $65 billion for broadband, $55 billion for clean drinking water $50 billion for environmental resiliency, $39 billion for public transit and $25 billion for airports, according to the White House.
In response to those hesitant about paying for the bill, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, told reporters Wednesday that the “bill is more than paid for,” adding that he is “looking forward to moving ahead and having a healthy debate.”
At this point, lawmakers are considering redirecting $205 billion in COVID-19 relief funds to pay for the infrastructure bill, or utilizing $50 billion in fraudulently paid unemployment benefits during the pandemic.
U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, has been a vocal supporter of this bill since its inception in the House. The congressman is currently fighting for $20 million to be included in the bill to fund infrastructure projects on the Central Coast, but because the bill text is still being written, it’s not certain whether this provision will be included, according to a spokesperson.
The spokesperson said if direct funding is not included, it’s likely the Central Coast could qualify for grants funded by pool funds that would be made available through the passage of the package.
In a statement to the News-Press, Rep. Carbajal said he looks forward to further deliberations on this bill and vowed to continue working to channel federal dollars into Central Coast projects.
“Thanks to the relief included in the American Rescue Plan, our economy is back on track. Our GDP has grown by 6.5% and has now exceeded pre-pandemic levels. Now we need to keep the momentum going by modernizing our infrastructure to meet the demands and threats that face us today,” Rep. Carbajal said in a statement. “The investments being debated by the Senate will help put people to work and invests in roads and bridges, better public transit options, water systems, expanded broadband access, and huge improvements to our clean energy and electric vehicle infrastructure. I look forward to deliberating the final product in the House and will work to ensure the bill delivers for Central Coast residents.”
This latest bill is the first of two infrastructure bills Democratic legislators are aiming to pass in the coming months.
The second, separate bill, which has been dubbed a “human infrastructure bill” by President Biden, proposes the allocation of $3.5 trillion to invest in child care, paid leave, education and efforts to stunt the impacts of climate change.
In order for the proposed “reconciliation” bill to pass, every Democrat in the Senate would need to support it without Republican votes.
While Senate Republicans have vowed to oppose the $3.5 trillion bill, Democratic lawmakers are aiming to pass both the bipartisan infrastructure package and the budget resolution that would allow for further discussion about the reconciliation process before the Senate leaves for recess in August.
U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla, D-California, wrote in a statement that he supports the infrastructure package that advanced in the Senate, though there is more that needs to be done to improve infrastructure than just fixing roads and bridges.
“We need to invest in our care economy, immigration reform, and transformational programs to combat the climate crisis,” Sen. Padilla wrote. “My colleagues on the Budget Committee and I are also hard at work on the second track of this infrastructure effort: a reconciliation framework that will deliver on the bold investments included in the American Jobs and Families Plans, and ensure that the jobs created through these investments are good paying union jobs. I’m encouraged by this movement forward, and am committed to delivering results for California and the American people.”