Time was that if you believed bipartisanship in Congress could get things done, there was also a bridge to West Seattle we could sell you (mild wear and tear). After last week, the hope that Democrats and Republicans could come together on behalf of the American people stopped being such a joke.
Following months of courting centrist Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Senate, the Biden administration’s efforts paid off with the announcement of a bipartisan agreement on $550 billion in new infrastructure spending over five years, and the renewal of existing transportation and infrastructure programs set to expire at the end of September.
There are still ways the bill could be derailed, but so far, many lawmakers believe they can put partisanship aside in the evenly divided Senate to overcome the 60-vote filibuster threshold.
The vote to address long-postponed infrastructure needs could come as soon as this week.
The measure, officially known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, includes $110 billion for roads and bridges, $66 billion for passenger and freight rail, $39 billion for public transit, $25 billion for airports and $17 billion for ports and waterways. Billions more would be devoted to water and power infrastructure, improving broadband access, electric buses and ferries, and electric vehicle charging stations.
The bill also would create an office within the Department of Transportation dedicated to addressing the needs of tribal governments and Native American communities and give $216 million to the Bureau of Indian Affairs for climate resilience and adaptation for tribal nations.
While the legislation includes much to like, it is far from perfect.
The $550 billion in new funds and renewal of other transportation and infrastructure programs adds up to an ambitious $1 trillion investment, but it’s barely a down payment on the $13 trillion that the U.S. needs to spend over the next 20 years to upgrade aging public works projects, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.
Although the bill claims to include $483 billion in offsets to help pay for new spending, the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimates actual offsets to be about half. Indexing the gas tax for inflation, which was removed from the bill, would have helped defray some of that cost.
The proposal has been greeted with pushback by some on the right, who object to the cost and want to slow down the process, as well as some on the left, who are upset about concessions made and that liberal priorities were sidelined.
That’s the nature of compromise, though, no one gets everything they want, but having bipartisan support on this bill is what America needs. This investment in infrastructure not only means more jobs and a better economic future, it also shows Congress can still tackle the nation’s problems together.
Call it a $550 billion corrective to divisiveness.