WASHINGTON — The U.S. House cleared a massive $1.5 trillion package Wednesday that backers said would not only shore up the nation’s crumbling infrastructure but also create jobs at a time of widespread unemployment, protect the planet from a warming climate and narrow long-standing racial disparities.
The bill passed almost entirely along partisan lines, with 233 lawmakers voting for it and 188 against. Three Republicans — U.S. Reps. Brain Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania and Jeff Van Drew and Chris Smith of New Jersey — joined Democrats in favor of the bill, while two Democrats — Reps. Collin Peterson of Minnesota and Ben McAdams of Utah — joined the GOP opposition.
“We can create millions of jobs that cannot be exported, all while putting our country on a path toward zero carbon emissions, making communities and roads safer, and addressing long-standing disparities.” said Rep. Steven Horsford, who along with fellow Democratic Reps. Susie Lee and Dina Titus voted for the legislation.
Lee said her priorities in the legislation are improving “basic services that all Nevadans deserve.” In addition to more traditional public infrastructure projects the bill includes $130 billion to improve school buildings, including support for class size reductions, Lee noted.
Nevada Republican Rep. Mark Amodei voted against the bill. The measure “disproportionately favors funding for urban areas at the expense of rural and suburban communities and reduces the flexibility of states and counties by smothering them in red tape,” Amodei said. “Essentially, unless you represent a major metropolitan area, this bill will make it increasingly difficult for our states and non-federal partners to secure resources for their infrastructure needs.”
The centerpiece of the package is nearly $500 billion for roads, bridges, rail transit, zero-emission buses, harbors and ports and carbon-reduction and alternative fuel programs.
It would also spend more than $100 billion to increase access to affordable housing. And it would set aside $100 billion to increase access to high-speed internet service in rural and underserved areas, an issue that gained visibility as work, education and other aspects of social life shifted online amid the pandemic.
The far-reaching proposal also includes billions to shore up the nation’s water infrastructure and electric grid, upgrade hospitals and help community health centers, modernize the nation’s postal service, restore lakes and coastal habitats and clean up coal mines and oil and gas wells.
Politicians in both parties have characterized strengthening the nation’s infrastructure as a key avenue for bipartisan action, though other attempts to find consensus on the issue have failed in recent years.
President Donald Trump has also pushed for a massive infrastructure investment. In late March, he tweeted “this is the time” to pass an infrastructure bill and said it should be “big and bold” — on the order of $2 trillion — and should focus on jobs and infrastructure projects.
In April, Treasury Secretary Steven Munchin told CNBC that low interest rates make it a good time to invest in infrastructure and that he was discussing possibilities with Democrats.
But Trump threatened to veto the Democrats’ package Monday — the beginning of yet another “Infrastructure Week” on Capitol Hill — arguing that it is biased against rural America and would add significantly to the national debt.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Wednesday he isn’t going to act on the bill, which he said would funnel billions from “actual” infrastructure projects into climate change projects and help cities at the expense of other parts of the country.
“This nonsense is not going anywhere in the Senate,” he said on the Senate floor. “It will just join the list of absurd House proposals that were only drawn up to show fealty to the radical left.”