PA senators split on bipartisan $ 1.2 trillion infrastructure bill

By Jacob Fischler | Pennsylvania Capital-Star

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The U.S. Senate on Tuesday voted 69-30 a vast, bipartisan, $ 1.2 trillion infrastructure package, a milestone for one of President Joe Biden’s priorities after months of negotiations.

Biden proposed an infrastructure plan in March that would have exceeded $ 2 trillion. A bipartisan group of senators led by US Senator Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Arizona, worked out the details of the bill that ultimately exceeded 2,700 pages and included $ 550 billion in new spending.

“It has been a long and winding road,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., told the Senate on Tuesday.

Every Senate Democrat and 19 Republicans voted in favor of final passage.

Republicans voting yes included: Roy Blunt of Missouri, Richard Burr and Tom Tillis of North Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Mike Crapo and Jim Risch of Idaho, Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Portman.

Pennsylvania US Senators Bob Casey, a Democrat, and Pat Toomey, a Republican, parted ways on the vote, according to an official roll call of the Senate.

The invoice includes:

  • $ 351 billion for highways and bridges
  • $ 107 billion for public transit
  • $ 73 billion for electricity grid infrastructure
  • $ 66 billion for passenger rail
  • $ 55 billion for drinking water infrastructure
  • $ 42 billion for the deployment of broadband
  • $ 25 billion for airports
  • $ 17 billion for ports
  • $ 7.5 billion for electric vehicle charging stations
  • $ 7.5 billion for electric buses and ferries

The White House said the bill would be paid with $ 263 billion of unused COVID-19 relief money and improved unemployment benefits, $ 51 billion from postponing a rule on Medicare Part D, $ 20 billion from future auctions of spectrum used for telecommunications, increased economic activity and other sources.

In a statement, Toomey, who is not running for re-election in 2022 and will retire from politics, called the bill “too expensive, too expensive and unpaid.”

“There is a need to expand and maintain our country’s real physical infrastructure, which is why the federal government spends billions on these projects every year,” Toomey said. “But this legislation is too expensive, too broad, too unpaid, and too threatening to the innovative cryptocurrency economy.

“Federal infrastructure spending should be driven by a reasoned assessment of our country’s needs, but this process has been driven by democratic political imperatives rather than necessity,” he continued.

Take on TwitterKeystone State Sen. Casey praised bipartisan cooperation on the bill as the chamber “comes together and makes a substantial investment in our communities.”

“We have allocated critical funding to make Pennsylvania’s roads and bridges safer, expand broadband access and improve public transportation while tackling the climate crisis by prioritizing electric vehicles and electricity. clean energy, ”Casey said, adding that the chamber needs to move on to other components. President Joe Biden’s national agenda, including “investing in home and community services; expand access to early childhood education and affordable child care, [and] expand access to paid family and medical leave.

Republicans have already made clear their opposition to these proposals and are unlikely to offer similar support.

GOP objections

Some Republicans said the overall spending was too high, objecting to the bill’s broad scope that went beyond traditional transportation infrastructure like roads and bridges.

They are also unhappy with the majority’s plan to follow through on the infrastructure bill with a $ 3.5 trillion budget resolution and a major spending plan for education, climate, health and social services.

Unlike the Infrastructure Bill and most Senate laws, this larger spending plan will only require a simple majority as it will be considered in a process known as reconciliation, and the Democrats plan to continue his endorsement without any Republican backing.

Kansas Republican Senator Jerry Moran voted against final passage of the infrastructure measure on Tuesday after serving on the original bipartisan task force that developed a framework for the bill.

He said in a speech on Monday that the bill included several of his priorities, including investing in broadband, but was too expensive and was not matched by more revenue or cutbacks. ‘other expenses.

“I wanted it to be a smaller, more affordable, premium premium package that didn’t overdo it, add to the national debt, or raise taxes for the American people,” he said. .

He also opposed the measure’s link to the budget plan and the $ 3.5 trillion reconciliation bill that will encompass health care, education, environmental programs and more. This undermined the bipartisan nature of the first bill, Moran said.

The Senate voted immediately after the infrastructure vote to proceed with the debate on the budget resolution. This motion was passed along party lines, 50-49, with Senator Mike Rounds, RS.D. missing both votes.

Moran added that the White House and Schumer had too much influence over the negotiations, instead of the group of 22 mostly moderate senators from the two sides who had negotiated. He praised Sinema for his role in leading the bipartisan group and bringing together members of both parties.

And after

The fate of the infrastructure measure in the Democratic majority House, which last month passed its own surface transportation license that included billions of dollars earmarked for specific projects requested by lawmakers, is uncertain.

The Senate’s 60-vote requirement and the support of the Senate Bill from the White House and a large group of Republicans likely means the House version will be closer to what comes to Biden’s desk.

Biden is due to meet with governors and mayors on Wednesday to discuss the bill’s benefits for state and local roads, public transit, water infrastructure and broadband.

The federal money will allow state departments of transportation to get started on long lists of projects they are waiting to undertake, said Susan Howard, director of the transportation funding program at the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. , a group that advocates for state transportation departments.

“We have a clear backlog of unmet need – projects that have been on the books with state DOTs for years,” Howard said last week.

Critics, however, said the bill will worsen the already problematic level of greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector.

While the bill includes money for articles intended to mitigate climate change and reduce emissions, these programs are overshadowed by massive spending on new highways which further encourage driving, and therefore emissions from cars. cars and trucks.

Families, jobs, taxes

In his speech on the ground before the vote, Schumer acknowledged the shortcomings of the bill and promised that the next major bill in the Senate would offer more help to working families and small businesses, create more jobs focused on the fight against climate change and adjust the tax code.

“We Democrats believe we need to do a lot more,” Schumer said. The budget resolution “will bring about generational transformations in these areas”.

House progressives warned on Tuesday that they would not support the infrastructure bill until the Senate acted on the $ 3.5 trillion reconciliation bill, The New York Times reported. House Democrats hold a slim majority and cannot afford to lose many members in a vote.

And the prospect of this larger package was not enough to satisfy some climate hawks in the House.

House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva, D-Arizona, said Monday the Senate Democrats’ reconciliation instructions – the outline for spending the $ 3.5 trillion – were well under their allocation at the Ministry of the Interior.

The exact total that the Senate is proposing for the interior is not clear. Domestic programs were listed as one of eight items sharing the Senate’s directive on energy and natural resources to allocate $ 198 billion in spending.

“Whatever work this resolution does in other areas, you cannot ignore the fact that it does not provide enough money for the Home Office to meet some of our critical climate goals, including including urgent needs like drought alleviation throughout the West, ”he said in a statement. “It’s disappointing to see these obvious unmet needs.

Grijalva said he was working with like-minded House members to increase the Home’s share of funding.

Capital-Star editor-in-chief John L. Micek contributed additional reporting.

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