Amtrak train conductor waving

$1tn infrastructure bill backed by US Senate

Image credit: Getty Images

The US Senate has passed a vast new infrastructure bill with bipartisan support. The bill supports a greener recovery from the Covid-19, including a rollout of EV charging points and a boost for public transport.

The passing of the 'Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act' affirms President Joe Biden’s push for consensus building in the pandemic recovery. 19 Republicans, including Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, joined their Democratic colleagues to support the bill, which passed in a 69-30 vote.

Speaking at the White House afterwards, Biden said: “Today, we proved that democracy can still work. We can still come together to do big things, important things, for the American people.”

Moderate Republican Lisa Murkowski, one of the negotiators of the bill, said: “This infrastructure bill is not the perfect bill [but] it is better to get some of what our constituents want rather than none of it.”

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer commented: “It's been quite a night. We still have a way to go, but we’ve taken a giant step forward to transforming America. This is the most significant piece of legislation that's been considered in decades.”

The bill includes $550bn in new infrastructure investments, alongside $450bn in previously approved investments.

Regarding utilities, it will update the national grid to render it more resilient to 21st-century threats such as extreme weather and cyber attacks by state-backed actors. It will provide $65bn to support broadband expansion and improvement, which has been framed as “no longer a luxury” by both Democrats and Republicans in the context of the coronavirus pandemic. It will also pay for the replacement of lead drinking pipes and secure access to clean water, with $55bn set aside for water infrastructure.

The transport infrastructure provision aims to expand and modernise road, rail ($66bn for rail alone), air and marine transport. Harking back to the spirit of Roosevelt's 'New Deal' policies in the late 1930s, 2021's bill provides considerable investment for upgrading roads and bridges. It also sets aside funding to defend coastlines from rising sea levels. As expected, it will support the rollout of EV charging infrastructure and the electrification of public transport.

$73bn will go towards upgrading ageing grid infrastructure – such as through building new transmission lines with higher-voltage capacities – and expanding clean energy. $21bn will go towards cleaning soil and groundwater in former coal mines and gas fields.

The White House said that the bill would create “millions of jobs” and support the US decarbonisation effort, which Biden plans to be tied closely with the pandemic recovery. Before it can receive executive approval, it must be approved by the House of Representatives. Progressive legislators in the lower chamber are threatening to stall the bill until the Senate passes a separate, more comprehensive $3.5tn package largely funded by taxes on high net-worth individuals and corporations.

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