By Terrance Turner
Nov. 15, 2021
Today, President Joe Biden signed into law a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill.
The bill will finally become law after a protracted process that sparked fierce debate in Congress. The legislation had already passed through the Senate in August by a 69-30 vote. But the bill’s passage in the House had been stalled by logistical and ideological disagreements.
House progressives had insisted the bill be passed in conjunction with Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan, which included provisions for child tax credits and funding for paid family leave programs, among other things. But Democratic senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) voiced objections to the price tag and the bill’s provisions. Negotiations dragged on for weeks.
House progressives held fast to their plan to pass both bills together; House moderates wanted a score from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) before voting on the “Build Back Better” (BBB) bill. (That score and vote are expected this week.) The stalemate ended late Nov. 5, when House moderates pledged to support the BBB legislation upon receiving the CBO score. Progressives (mostly) agreed to vote for the bipartisan infrastructure bill. It passed last Friday night by a vote of 228-206. 13 House Republicans voted for the bill.
Today, after months of negotiations and hand-wringing, President Biden signed the bipartisan infrastructure bill. The bill contains:
- 110 billion for roads, bridges and fix-ups: This includes $40 billion for bridge repair, replacement and rehab.
- $73 billion for the U.S. electric grid: According to the New York Times, this includes upgrades to the country’s power systems that, among other things, will help the grid carry renewable energy.
- $65 billion for broadband: Broadband is the transmission of wide bandwidth data over a high-speed Internet connection. According to Verizon, it can be achieved through several methods. Fiber optics carry data using pulses of light through strands of fiber. Wireless broadband (wi-fi) connects home or business to the Internet using radio signals and not cables. Cable delivers high-speed Internet services over the same coaxial cables that deliver pictures and sound to your television.
- $21 billion for “environmental remediation”: Environmental remediation is the removal of pollution or contaminants from both soil and water (whether surface or groundwater). According to the Department of Labor, water can be polluted when contaminants seep through soil or get released into lakes, streams, or rivers. (Pollution can also occur because of mining or drilling for natural gas or oil.) Soil excavation involves removing contaminated soil and either replacing it or using aeration or “bioremediation”, in which microorganisms are used to remove toxins. If the pollutants can’t be safely removed, the soil is excavated, placed in containers, and hauled away to a storage facility.
- $39 billion to modernize transit: The White House says that this is the largest federal investment in public transit ever. The funding would help develop new bus routes and improve accessibility for those with disabilities, per the Associated Press.
- $47 billion for flooding and coastal resiliency (and “climate resiliency”): New funding aimed at combating wildfires and preparing coastal regions for more frequent hurricanes and flooding.
- $7.5 billion for electric vehicles and EV charging: This includes $5 billion to expand EV chargers along highways. The president says this money could help build 500,000 charging stations and could help make 50% of vehicles electric by 2030. Also included: $2.5 billion for alternatives (including hydrogen fuel).
In today’s signing ceremony, President Biden delivered remarks about the landmark legislation. He noted that “for all the folks at home, I know this day matters to you as well. I know you’re tired of the bickering in Washington, frustrated by the negativity, and you just want us to use and focus on your needs, your concerns, and the conversations that are taking place at your kitchen table — conversation as profound as they are ordinary:
How do I find work? And how do I get there? How can our small business thrive and our child succeed in school? Or how do we emerge from this pandemic not just with a little bit of breathing room, but with a real fighting chance to get ahead?From “Remarks by President Biden”
When we ran for President, to help — I thought maybe I could help answer some of those questions for you and the needs you have.
“My fellow Americans, today, I want you to know: We hear you, and we see you. The bill I’m about to sign into law is proof that despite the cynics, Democrats and Republicans can come together and deliver results,” Biden said.
The president was in a grateful mood: he thanked Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as well as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio). He thanked Vice President Kamala Harris and First Gentleman Douglas Emhoff, along with First Lady Jill Biden.
“Democrats and Republicans, progressives and moderates, I’d like to pause and ask the committee chairs and the ranking members of the United States Senate and House who are here today: please stand,” Biden asked. (They did, to applause.) “Red states, blue states — you all contacted me, said you were all for this. You stepped up. More than 375 mayors, Democrats and Republicans, from every state and the District of Columbia, wrote me asking me to get this done.” He also thanked state and tribal leaders, along with faith leaders, civil rights leaders, and the U.S. Department of Commerce.
“I want to thank organized labor, who understands it’s about jobs,” Biden said. “Jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs. Thanks to the AFL-CLO, autoworkers, United workers, plumbers, pipefitters, building trainers, steel workers…who did I leave out?” Nobody, if Biden could help it. His message to the American people was clear: “America is moving again. And your life is going to change for the better.”
“If you live in one of the 10 million homes — or your child attends one of 400,000 schools or child Care centers — that has lead pipes in them, you face a clear and present danger to your health and your child’s health now. This law will start to replace all of the nation’s lead pipes and service lines so every American, every child can turn on a faucet and drink clean water. Tens of thousands of plumbers and pipefitters are going to get work done in good paying jobs. Folks — as we saw with remote learning, remote working during the pandemic — access to high-speed internet is essential, as is access to water and electricity. This law will make high-speed Internet available and affordable to every American: urban, suburban, and rural.
“This law is a blue-collar blueprint to rebuild America,” Biden said. “It leaves no one behind. And it marks an inflection point for the country “Our infrastructure used to be rated the best in the world. Now, according to the World Economic Forum, we rank 13th in the world. Well, that’s about to change,” Biden said today. “Things are about to turn around in a big way.”
He continued: “With this law, we focused on getting things done. I ran for president because the only way to move forward, in my view, was through compromise and consensus. That’s how the system works. That’s American democracy. And I’m going to be signing a law that is truly consequential because we made our democracy deliver for the American people. We compromised. We reached a consensus.”