Following weeks of bipartisan negotiations, the Senate late Sunday released a 2,702-page infrastructure bill that, if approved, would authorize nearly $1 trillion for the nation’s roads, highways, bridges, transit and more, and though it faces uncertain prospects in Congress, here’s what to expect from what would be one of the biggest infrastructure spending bills in U.S. history.
Released after a rare weekend session, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act would be the third-largest piece of legislation so far during President Joe Biden’s tenure (after his two stimulus packages), appropriating $550 billion in new spending over the next five years, with some $110 billion for roads, bridges and other transportation projects.
The bill includes the largest federal investment ever in public transit, allotting $39 billion to modernize systems, improve access for the elderly and people with disabilities, and repair more than 24,000 buses, 5,000 rail cars and thousands of miles of train tracks.
Spearheaded by a bipartisan group of 67 Senators, the deal forgoes many of the clean-energy and “human infrastructure” provisions touted by the Biden administration (including childcare and Medicare expansion), but it does authorize about $15 billion to buy thousands of electric school buses and to build a national network of electric-vehicle chargers along the nation’s highways.
Rounding out the bill’s big spending provisions are $65 billion to ensure every American has access to broadband internet, $55 billion to fund clean-drinking water initiatives, $11 billion in transportation safety programs, and $66 billion, $25 billion and $17 billion for Amtrak, airports and ports, respectively.
Unlike measures relying on new debt or higher taxes, the bill’s new spending will be financed with cost cuts, measures to help reduce tax avoidance and more than $250 billion in unused Covid-19 relief funds.
“We haven’t done a large, bipartisan bill of this nature in a long time,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said from the chamber floor Sunday night, adding that a vote to approve the bill could be held “in a matter of days.”
The bipartisan piece of legislation marks a major win for Senate negotiators trying to ease GOP concerns over heightened spending while appeasing Democratic demands for new clean-energy funding, but its prospects in the House remain very uncertain. All Democratic Senators and 17 Republicans voted to advance the bill on Wednesday, setting the stage for its likely approval in the chamber later this week. A few House progressives, however, have tied their support for the infrastructure bill to a much larger $3.5 trillion budget bill, which would help the party authorize spending for its non-infrastructure priorities, and signaled they may note vote on the package unless Senators move forward on the highly divisive budget bill. Moderate Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who’s echoed GOP concerns about the nation’s growing debt load, came out against the big budget bill last week, making its prospects fairly grim given the chamber’s 50-50 split.
Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.) said he is a “no” on the infrastructure deal unless the Senate sends the House a budget reconciliation package that “meets the moment,” joining Rep. Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez (D-N.Y.) who suggested she wouldn’t vote for the bill without a budget package. To pass, the infrastructure bill would need either bipartisan support or support from all but four House Democrats.
Despite its lofty price tag (nearly three times the last big infrastructure bill, signed by President Barack Obama in 2015), the bipartisan piece of legislation is far less than the $2 trillion package proposed by President Joe Biden in April.