Undercurrent

Biden touts his win on infrastructure bill to state and local leaders

By: - August 11, 2021 3:59 pm

In 2020, the Las Vegas metropolitan area saw 81 days with elevated ozone and 32 days with elevated PM2.5 pollution— fine particulate pollution that comes primarily from burning fossil fuels and, especially in recent years,  wildfires. (Photo: Ronda Churchill)

One day after the U.S. Senate approved the bipartisan infrastructure bill that he championed, President Joe Biden met virtually Wednesday with scores of state, local and tribal leaders to build support for the measure as it heads to the House.

The meeting resembled a victory lap, with state, local and tribal leaders of both parties telling Biden how important the $1.2 trillion bill would be back home—and also underlined the backing from beyond the Beltway for a measure that would repair crumbling roads and bridges and more.

But the infrastructure measure is far from the finish line, with the next challenge balancing it with a $3.5 trillion spending plan.

The White House said the meeting included 1,500 officials. The five major advocacy groups for state and local governments have all endorsed the bipartisan infrastructure bill.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat who campaigned in 2018 promising to “fix the damn roads,” told Biden the federal package would be a boon to that effort, while also helping the state’s auto industry transition to “an electric future” and repair drinking water infrastructure.

Liz Hausmann, a Republican commissioner of Fulton County, Georgia, said the bill would help fund transit expansions that the rapidly growing region around Atlanta needs, but lacks the funding to construct on its own.

The bill “provides mobility options to our community, and the transit provisions provide connectivity, jobs and sustainability for the growth that we know is coming,” she said.

“We can’t do it without the support and the partnership of our state and federal government, and this bipartisan infrastructure package will do just that.”

But final passage of the bill is likely weeks, if not months, away.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has pledged not to take up the infrastructure package in the Democratic-controlled House until the Senate passes a larger spending plan that focuses on education, health and climate efforts through a separate process known as reconciliation.

That yet-unwritten bill’s chief sponsor, Sen. Bernie Sanders, (I-Vt.), has compared the $3.5 trillion package to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal.

A majority of the 95 House members in the Congressional Progressive Caucus pledged on Tuesday not to vote for the bipartisan infrastructure bill until a “robust” spending package is agreed to in the Senate.

Passage of that plan has its own challenges.

A group of nine House moderate Democrats, including Susie Lee of Nevada, told Pelosi they had reservations about the measure’s price tag. Democrats have a slim eight-seat majority in the chamber.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said Wednesday his caucus would be united in supporting the eventual spending plan, which he said would be ready by Sept. 15, two days after senators return from their summer recess.

Senate Democrats may pass the measure, even with all Republicans opposed, but they can’t lose any members, meaning the package must appease all members, from progressives like Sanders to West Virginia’s Joe Manchin III, a key moderate vote.

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