What does the new Bipartisan agreement include? Who helped lead the effort?
The US Senate will begin a debate over the bipartisan infrastructure agreement. After tense negotiations, what did Senators and the White House agree on?
On Wednesday, the Senate voted to begin debate over an infrastructure package negotiated between a group of bipartisan Senators and the White House. The announcement that the discussions had wrapped up was welcome news to many on Capitol Hill looking forward to their summer recess.
The official name of the bill is the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). A factsheet was released by the White House describing the agreement as “a once-in-a-generation investment in our infrastructure, which will be taken up in the Senate for consideration.” The comment is an important reminder that although the sides agreed, the future of the bill is not yet secured.
Which Senators were involved in the negotiations?
For the Republicans, Ohio Senator Rob Portman was tapped to lead negotiations. Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema led discussions for the Democrats and, after the two sides had agreed, told reporters she and the other members of the group were "very excited to have a deal."
Other key members of the bipartisan coalition included Maine's Susan Collins and West Virginia's Joe Machin, both seen as centrists within the chambers partisan political spread.
What measures and provisions does the Bipartisan bill include?
The bill, which includes some elements of the American Jobs Plan (AJP), is much smaller in scale and scope.
The IIJA proposes $550 billion of new federal spending, focusing on investments in physical infrastructure.
The Biden Administration urged the Senate to take up and pass the bill which they say will “grow the economy, enhance our competitiveness, create good jobs, and make our economy more sustainable, resilient, and just.”
The plan invests significantly less in many social and human infrastructure provisions and programs included in the AJP.
For example, the President’s package had allocated $20 billion “for a new program that will reconnect neighborhoods cut off by historic investments and ensure new projects increase opportunity, advance racial equity and environmental justice, and promote affordable access.”
The Bipartisan IIJA reduces this amount to $1 billion, which will be used to establish a new program to "fund planning, design, demolition, and reconstruction of street grids, parks, or other infrastructure.” While the AJP had outlined specifically how these programs would benefit communities of color, language on this aspect has been essentially left out of the new package.
For years both Democrats and Republicans have campaigned on the issue of fixing the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. To make good on this promise, the bill “will invest $110 billion of new funds for roads, bridges, and major projects.” Of this, $40 billion has been allocated for “bridge repair, replacement, and rehabilitation.” This spending on bridges represents “the single largest dedicated bridge investment since the construction of the interstate highway system.”
President Biden has been a life-long supporter of trains and rail. The White House acknowledged that the funding structure of America’s rail system “lacks a multi-year funding stream to address deferred maintenance, enhance existing corridors, and build new lines in high-potential locations."
To help build a stronger and more passenger-focused rail system, the bill will make a $66 billion investment to “eliminate the Amtrak maintenance backlog, modernize the Northeast Corridor, and bring world-class rail service to areas outside the northeast and mid-Atlantic.”
Public transportation was a major point of contention in the negotiations.
In the end, the group agreed to allocate $39 billion to modernize transit systems and “ improve accessibility for the elderly and people with disabilities.” This is less than half of what Biden had proposed in the AJP. Additionally, key provisions related to helping transit authorities "expand their systems to meet rider demand" were left out.
Around $5 billion has been set aside for the procurement of electric and low emission bus fleets.
The factsheet speaks to how these investments will benefit communities of color, "since these households are twice as likely to take public transportation and many of these communities lack sufficient public transit options." However, they provide no specifics on how exactly these benefits will be safeguarded.
Climate Resilience, Clean Water, and Environmental Pollution
Although this bill allocates funds for climate projects, the total pails compared to that included in the AJP.
The President's plan had included several incentives to support households and businesses in their transition to electric vehicles (EVs).
For businesses, Biden’s plan had included funding to support the auto industry “increase domestic supply chains from raw materials to parts, retool factories to compete globally, and support American workers to make batteries and EVs.”
Additionally, money was targeted to make EVs more desirable by providing tax credits to those who opt for an electric option when buying their next car.
The IIJA scrapped both of these programs and will only allocate $7.5 billion to build up America’s EV charging infrastructure.
The IIJA and AJP allocate similar amounts of funding "to clean up superfund and brownfield sites, reclaim abandoned mine land and cap orphaned gas wells." Over a quarter of Black and Latino Americans live within three miles of a superfund site. Researchers have shown that proximity to these sites can have harmful, even deadly, impacts on human health.
Who is opposed to the agreement?
The measure to begin debate over the proposal passed the Senate across truly bipartisan lines, with nearly 70 seventy Senators voting in the affirmative.
A few Republican Senators have voiced their opposition and after former-President Trump’s statement yesterday bashing the agreement, more could follow.
Thirty-two Senators -- all Republicans -- voted against the motion to proceed, including Mike Lee, Marco Rubio, Ben Sasse, Ted Cruz, and Tom Cotton.
Utah Senator Mike Lee’s office released a statement on his vote against the motion to proceed. In it, he argues that the country is “already seeing skyrocketing costs for things we need every day. Housing, food, gasoline, and electricity are all becoming more expensive in large part because the federal government keeps spending more money than it has.”
Concerns from the GOP over inflation have grown in recent weeks, and for Senator, Lee this bill would make it even “harder to make ends meet and provide for our families." The Consumer Price Index, which measures changes in the prices of goods and services, has increased considerably since the pandemic began. However, many economists disagree that federal stimulus is driving the surge in prices. Rather, some argue as consumer preference and behavior return to normal, the supply chains, many of which were broken or disrupted by covid-19, will need time to adjust.
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