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As Infrastructure Fight Rages, House Earmarks $715 Billion for Roads and More

Only a part of Biden’s infrastructure package, the bill endorsed Thursday is separate from $579 billion in new spending that the president put on the table last week in a deal with lawmakers.

WASHINGTON (CN) — The House of Representatives voted 221-201 to pass a $715 billion surface-transportation bill Thursday, bringing just two Republicans across party lines to vote with the chamber's Democratic majority. 

Roads, bridges and safety get the bulk of the money from the bill, $343 billion, with another $109 billion going to transit, $95 billion to passenger and freight rail, $117 billion to drinking water infrastructure, and $51.25 billion to wastewater infrastructure. 

“It seizes a once in a century opportunity to rebuild America’s infrastructure,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said about the House’s Invest in America Act in a press conference Tuesday. “The most expensive maintenance is no maintenance at all.”

The five-year surface-transportation bill is the third bill in a convoluted maze of infrastructure talks, and is separate from Biden’s $579 billion infrastructure deal with a bipartisan group of senators. In fact, it routinely appears before Congress in order for infrastructure programs to be renewed. 

The bill includes a Sept. 30 deadline to pass and extend the surface-transportation programs. 

Biden reached his bipartisan infrastructure deal last week. The $1.2 trillion framework fell short of the $2 trillion in infrastructure spending that Biden pitched in the American Jobs Plan, but included more funding than Republican senators initially agreed to — as both sides had concessions throughout the weeks of negotiating with the White House. 

The package includes funding for transportation, broadband and water infrastructure, stemming coastal erosion, airports, electric vehicle infrastructure, and upgrading ports and waterways. 

Biden is pitching the bill as a blue-collar jobs plan, as 90% of the jobs that would be generated by the plan’s spending could go to workers without college degrees. 

In a statement earlier this week, the White House noted that the U.S. ranks 13th in infrastructure quality and faces a maintenance backlog of over $1 trillion — and the transportation sector is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the country. 

“While the bill is missing some critical initiatives on climate change that I proposed — initiatives I intend to pass in the reconciliation bill — the infrastructure deal nonetheless represents a crucial step forward in building our clean energy future,” Biden said in a statement on Monday. 

After the agreement was made last week, Biden said during a news conference that he would only sign the bipartisan plan in tandem with a separate reconciliation bill dedicated to the nation’s social infrastructure. He later backpedaled on this statement, however, after Republicans called foul. In a full day of damage control, Biden said that it wasn’t his intention to veto the bill. 

The social infrastructure package would include trillions more for climate, education and health — and could be fast-tracked through Congress without GOP backing using a process known as reconciliation. 

Biden is attempting to assure progressives that the social infrastructure package is still on its way, while attempting to keep Republicans on board with the bipartisan infrastructure deal. 

Meanwhile, the surface-transportation bill’s lead sponsor, Congressman Peter DeFazio, is suggesting that the Senate could speed up infrastructure talks by adopting some policies from his bill.

“The Majority Leader would like to move quickly. And I said, ‘Well, you know, it took my staff seven months to write the policy. I don't know how quickly you can write policy over there,” DeFazio said at a press conference with Pelosi. “So I would suggest that you look at our policies, and we adopt significant portions of those.”

A Democrat from Oregon, DeFazio chairs the House Transportation Committee.

Follow Samantha Hawkins on Twitter. 

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