Senate Passes Major Infrastructure Packages
After months of debate and negotiations, the Senate this week passed two major infrastructure investment packages totaling over $4.5 trillion dollars. The first bill, focusing primarily on traditional infrastructure such as roads, railways and bridges along with major investment in the nation’s broadband internet network, passed with approval from both Republicans and Democrats on Tuesday along a 69-30 vote. Labelled as the last real chance at major bipartisan reform before the 2022 elections, the $1.2 trillion package fulfills a primary campaign promise of the Biden administration who will be looking to grow the Democrat’s hold on both congressional chambers.
The new funds will include $360 billion for roads, bridges and major projects: $48.5 billion for public transit, $66 billion for rail, $55 billion for water infrastructure, $65 billion for broadband and $73 billion for power infrastructure. In addition, it would spend $47.2 billion on climate resiliency, $25 billion for airports, $10 billion on electric buses and $16 billion for ports and inland waterways. The entire package will be spent over the next eight years and will be paid for by repurposed pandemic relief funds, revenue from new public-private partnerships, proceeds from 5G spectrum auctions and savings from crackdowns on tax evasion and unemployment insurance fraud.
The second package, however, proved to be a considerable roadblock. Totaling over $3.5 trillion, President Biden’s, “Human Infrastructure” bill combines Democratic budget proposals on education, sustainability, and welfare, and increase spending for childcare, climate change, education, homecare and housing. Ultimately, the bill passed along a 50-49 party-line vote despite staunch Republican opposition, who claimed that the mountainous sum could not be realistically paid for and would balloon the national debt.
To put the $3.5 trillion figure into perspective, the package would only be a portion of the overall fiscal year 2022 budget, even though the entire budgets of fiscal years 2009 through 2017 only ranged between $3.4 trillion to $4 trillion. Therefore, if adopted as it is written, overall outlays of the federal government would be among the highest in American history.
The House will return early from its scheduled summer recess the week of Aug. 23 to take up both bills. While the first infrastructure bill is expected to pass without considerable delay, the second package could be caught up in the lower chamber for months. The budget resolution will ultimately allow Democrats to use the fast-track budget reconciliation process to shield the legislation from a Republican filibuster, but some moderate Democrat senators such as Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) said they voted for the budget blueprint to keep the process moving and that they may not support the expansive legislation that the budget vote protects from a Republican filibuster.