Following months of delays and legislative maneuvering, President Joe Biden signed the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill into law Monday, notching a significant political victory amid slumping polls and an uncertain future for other elements of his agenda.
“For too long, we’ve talked about having the best economy in the world,” Biden said in his prepared remarks. “We’ve talked about asserting American leadership in the world with the best and safest roads, railways, ports, and airports. Here in Washington, we’ve heard countless speeches, promises, and white papers from the experts. But today, we are finally getting it done.”
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which passed the Senate in August and the House earlier this month, allocates roughly $1.2 trillion over 10 years for a wide variety of infrastructure projects. About $550 billion of that total is new spending, with the rest representing a renewal of expected funding.
The new spending is divided into $284 billion for surface transportation – which includes roads and bridges, rail, airports, ports, public transit and electric vehicles – and $266 billion for core infrastructure, which includes the power grid, broadband services, water systems and environmental resiliency. Some highlights:
* $73 billion to upgrade the nation’s electrical grid;
* $66 to improve Amtrak rail service;
* $65 billion for broadband internet service, with an emphasis on access in rural areas;
* $47 billion to improve resistance to fires, hurricanes and floods;
* $21 billion for environmental clean-up projects overseen by the Environmental Protection Agency;
* $15 billion to remove lead pipes in municipal water systems;
* $7.5 billion for electric vehicle infrastructure.
Some of the spending will be offset by revenue sources, including $200 billion in unused Covid-19 relief spending and about $50 billion in unemployment benefit funds returned by the states, but the offsets will not cover the full cost. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the infrastructure package will add $256 billion to the federal deficit over the next 10 years.
A bipartisan effort: Lawmakers from both parties attended the signing ceremony on the White House lawn, including key negotiators Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Rob Portman (R-OH), and the president said that the passage of the bill is “proof that despite the cynics, Democrats and Republicans can come together and deliver results.”
Still, the votes on the bills were lopsided, with all but a handful of Democrats voting yes and the majority of Republicans voting no. In the Senate, 19 of 50 Republicans supported the bill, while just 13 out of 213 Republicans in the House did so – and they have faced a backlash for their bipartisan cooperation.
Most Republican supporters of the legislation did not attend the signing ceremony, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). “In a less polarized era, a White House photo-op to promote a major public-works bill—the kind of bipartisan achievement presidents of both parties have sought and failed to secure for years—could have been a hot ticket in Washington,” The Wall Street Journal’s Lindsay Wise and Eliza Collins wrote. “Now, many GOP lawmakers say they’re skipping the event, as Republican members of Congress who ensured the legislation’s success find themselves contending with death threats from outside Congress and calls within their own party to strip them of their House committee assignments.”
Bipartisan support weakening: While the White House is hoping to win some political points from the long-awaited signing of the infrastructure bill, support for the effort appears to be slipping among voters. In August, 58% of respondents in a Morning Consult poll said they support the bill, but by last week that number had dropped to 50%. While support among Democrats has remained steady at about 80%, approval among Republicans fell from 40% to 22%.
Supervisor named: The White House said Sunday the former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu will oversee the implementation of the infrastructure bill. “In this role, Landrieu will oversee the most significant and comprehensive investments in American infrastructure in generations,” Biden said in a statement.
Landrieu, who also served as lieutenant governor of Louisiana, will be a senior White House adviser, working through the National Economic Council to coordinate the infrastructure spending. According to The Wall Street Journal, Landrieu was chosen in part for his experience in helping to rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city in 2005.