Bipartisan Infrastructure Agreement

29 June 2021 Legal News: Government Solutions Publication
Authors: Theodore H. Bornstein

President Biden and a bipartisan group of Senators have agreed on a compromise infrastructure proposal that shows promise for garnering the 60 votes necessary to overcome a filibuster, pass the Senate, and become law. Although the White House is saying the compromise would spend $1.2 trillion over 10 years, in truth it would actually include only $579 billion in new spending. The funds would be focused on what could be characterized as traditional infrastructure projects such as rebuilding roads and bridges, public transit, passenger and freight rail, electric vehicle infrastructure, ports, airports, and broadband infrastructure in rural areas.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure agreement seeks to:

  • Improve “healthy and sustainable” transportation options by modernizing and expanding transit and rail networks across the country, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The White House claims the agreement will result in the largest federal investment in public transit in history and is the largest federal investment in passenger rail since the creation of Amtrak.

  • Repair and rebuild roads and bridges with a focus on climate change mitigation, resilience, equity, and safety for all users, including cyclists and pedestrians. The Bipartisan Infrastructure proposal is the single largest dedicated bridge investment since the construction of the interstate highway system.

  • Build a national network of electric vehicle (EV) chargers along highways and in rural and disadvantaged communities. The largest investment in EV infrastructure in history, the proposal seeks to build 500,000 EV chargers.

  • Manufacture new electric school and transit buses to reduce harmful emissions and drive domestic manufacturing of zero emission vehicles and components.

  • Eliminate the nation’s lead water service lines and pipes, delivering clean drinking water to up to ten million American families and more than 400,000 schools and child care facilities that currently don’t have it, including in Tribal nations and disadvantaged communities.

  • Connect every American home to reliable high-speed internet, similar to the New Deal rural electrification program in the 1930s. The proposal is also aimed at driving down prices for internet service and closing the digital divide.

  • Upgrade the infrastructure of the nation’s power grid, by building thousands of miles of new, resilient transmission lines to facilitate the expansion of renewable energy, including through a new Grid Authority.

  • Create a first-of-its-kind Infrastructure Financing Authority that will leverage billions of dollars into clean transportation and clean energy.

  • Clean up legacy pollution sites.

  • Harden the Nation’s infrastructure against threats posed by climate change, cyber-attacks, and extreme weather events.

The following is a breakout of the proposal’s spending:

 

  Amount (billions)
Total  $579 
Transportation  $312
Roads, bridges, major projects  $109 
Safety  $11 
Public transit  $49 
Passenger and freight rail $66 
EV infrastructure  $7.5 
Electric buses/transit  $7.5 
Reconnecting communities  $1 
Airports  $25 
Ports and waterways  $16 
Infrastructure financing  $20 
Other Infrastructure  $266 
Water infrastructure  $55 
Broadband infrastructure  $65 
Environmental remediation  $21 
Power infrastructure incl. grid authority  $73 
Western water storage  $5 
Resilience  $47 

*New spending + baseline (over 5 years) = $973B
*New spending + baseline (over 8 years) = $1,209B

Outlook for Passage

The infrastructure proposal has to jump several legislative hurdles before becoming law. Most headcounts show that 10-11 Senate Republicans will vote in favor of the compromise. However, support is fragile. Last weekend Republicans were angry when the President said he would not sign the infrastructure compromise unless Congress also passed a Reconciliation bill containing his American Families Plan that would spend $1.8 trillion on “social infrastructure.” Under Reconciliation rules, the bill cannot be filibustered in the Senate. The American Families Plan includes: expanded child day care, free universal pre-K education, free community college, paid family and medical leave, easier access to unemployment insurance, expanded child tax credits, expanded earned income tax credits, and tax increases on persons with high incomes.

The American Families Plan has no support from House or Senate Republicans. Several moderate Congressional Democrats want major changes in the proposal or are reluctant to pass it using the Reconciliation process. House Speaker Pelosi cannot afford to lose the votes of more than four members of her caucus and Senate Majority Leader Schumer needs the votes of all 50 Democrats to pass the bill on Reconciliation. Complicating matters further, Speaker Pelosi is bending to pressure from progressives in her caucus by vowing that she will not bring the Bipartisan Infrastructure bill to the floor for a vote until after the Senate passes a Reconciliation bill containing the “social infrastructure” funding.

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