Saturday, January 28, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Senate signs off on $1 trillion for infrastructure in bipartisan vote

The ambitious package heads to the Democratic-controlled House now after a vote in which 19 Republican senators broke party lines.

WASHINGTON (CN) — President Joe Biden lauded bipartisan cooperation among lawmakers Tuesday after the Senate approved a $1 trillion federal investment in infrastructure in a 69-30 vote this afternoon.

The bill proposes $550 billion in new federal spending over the next five years, with the bulk of that figure — $110 billion — carved out for classical infrastructure expenditures like roads and bridges. More expansively, however, the bill also earmarks billions toward power grids, broadband internet and electric-vehicle charging stations. Airports, passenger and freight railways, and public transportation are also remembered in the bill along with drinking water and wastewater facilities.

“We’re on the cusp of an infrastructure decade that I truly believe will transform America,” Biden said at a press conference Tuesday, emphasizing that the bill will make the U.S. more resilient in the wake of the climate crisis.

“America has often had the greatest prosperity and made the most progress when we invest in America itself and that's what this infrastructure bill does,” he continued.

As he emphasized different parts of the bill Tuesday, the president promised that it means jobs for plumbers and pipe-fitters as they get to work on the estimated 10 million homes in America that have pipes with lead in them, and that it would expand the country’s broadband internet so that every American had access. 

“We saw too many families forced to literally sit in a fast food parking lot so they could get internet,” Biden said while speaking about the challenges Americans faced as the Covid-19 pandemic required students to learn remotely last year.

“This historic investment infrastructure is what I believe the people want,” he said.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called the package the first major U.S. infrastructure package in over a decade.

“The infrastructure bill we passed will deliver the most robust injection of funds into America's infrastructure in decades,” the New York Democrat tweeted Tuesday, noting he and others in the Senate are itching to vote next on a $3.5 trillion budget resolution that will “make historic investments in American jobs, families, & the fight against climate change.”

On Tuesday, after passing the infrastructure bill, the Senate agreed 50-49 to debate the larger budget resolution. Debate is likely to be quick, however, with Democrats aiming to hold for a quick vote without waiting for Republican support.

Ahead of the infrastructure bill's passage Tuesday, Senators Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia worked with White House staff and with Senators Rob Portman of Ohio and Mitt Romney of Utah to figure out a common definition for infrastructure and discussing how much they were willing to spend on it.

“I would have drafted this bill a little differently if it had been just me, I’m sure everybody feels that way about it,” Portsman said on the Senate floor ahead of the vote. “It was a true bipartisan project and therefore there were concessions made on both sides. But I’m proud of the broad support it’s received in this chamber. I’m proud of the broad support it received from the outside. More than 100 industry associations, unions, trade groups have already come forward to endorse the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act.”

Biden has championed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal as a way to grow the economy and create good-paying jobs. But it was the vote in itself that marked a win for the president as he’s pushed back against Democrats who wanted to abandon bipartisan talks. The president’s goal has been that at least a portion of his infrastructure plan would have Republican support. 

“There are no Republican bridges or Democratic Roads,” Biden said Tuesday, noting the bill is about building the U.S. economy from the middle out. He added it would create “millions of good union jobs all across the country” and that 90% of these wouldn’t require a college degree. 

“This bill shows that we can work together,” Biden said Tuesday, noting that when he ran on his presidential platform promoting a return to bipartisanship, his words were characterized as a relic of an earlier age.

“I never believed that,” Biden continued. “I still don’t. … To the Republicans who supported this bill you showed a lot of courage and I want to personally thank you for that.”

Among the 19 Republicans who voted in support of the infrastructure bill Tuesday were Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. They did so despite former President Donald Trump’s release of a statement ahead of the vote to reject the bill, in which he called it “the beginning of the Green New Deal.”

One of the 30 Republicans who voted against passage was Senator Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin, who released a statement Tuesday calling the bill a piece of “deception from the swamp’s big spenders.” 

“This is just the first step in the Democrats’ plan to pass their $5 trillion-plus radical tax-and-spend agenda, and I simply couldn’t help facilitate it,” he said.

The House will see the infrastructure bill next, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she will only take up the bipartisan measure only after the partisan budget bill is passed. Schumer said Monday that the budget bill is expected to be done by Sept. 15.

Follow Alexandra Jones on Twitter.

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.