Washington (AP) – After months of negotiations between Democrats and Republicans, the US Senate has passed a massive infrastructure package.
In the congressional chamber, Democrats and several Republicans voted Tuesday in favor of the 2,700-page legislative package designed to modernize roads, bridges and other transportation and energy networks in the United States. “America has often been the most prosperous and made the most progress when we invested in America itself,” said President Joe Biden.
In the coming years, some 550 billion dollars (470 billion euros) in new investments in infrastructure are planned. In total – including the funds already budgeted – the package is worth about a trillion dollars. After the Senate, the House of Representatives still has to give its approval. The schedule for this is unclear.
Biden had already presented the first plans in the spring that would allow him to spend about $2 trillion in infrastructure renewal over the next eight years. However, this met a lot of resistance from Republicans. In heavy negotiations with members of Congress, Biden’s list was gradually phased out.
According to the White House, it is nevertheless the largest infrastructure investment in decades. “There are no Republican bridges and no Democratic roads,” Biden said. That Republicans also voted for the package shows that democracy still works.
Some $110 billion will go to extending or renovating roads and bridges, nearly $40 billion to expanding local public transportation, and another $66 billion to the rail network. In addition, money is being reserved for the expansion of the charging stations for electric cars and for the promotion of electric buses. A total of $42 billion is planned for ports and airports. The package is also intended to finance the expansion of high-speed internet connections, the modernization of electricity networks and the improvement of water supplies, including the replacement of all lead pipes.
Biden had argued from the outset that the investment would create millions of jobs. He spoke of a historic project. The modernization of the infrastructure is urgently needed. A majority in the Senate was only achieved if enough Republicans could be won with the slimmed-down package.
“It’s an investment in the roads and bridges we drive every day to get our kids to school. It’s an investment in public transportation that we rely on to get to work,” said Vice President Kamala Harris. It means people no longer have to drink leaded water or go to a fast food parking lot to get fast internet.
Biden’s Democrats have only a narrow majority in both chambers of Congress. Their majority in the Senate is very thin. There, however, 60 out of 100 senators must agree to end the debate on ordinary bills in order to vote at all. That means Senate Democrats regularly rely on Republican votes to push through projects.
Before the summer break, Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer wants to pass a budget proposal worth about $3.5 trillion through the Senate. The design would provide for a massive expansion of social benefits, including support for families and increased educational opportunities. The Democrats could also push the budget through a special procedure, largely without the approval of Republicans – but then they wouldn’t have any deviation in their own ranks. Republicans are vehemently opposed to broader social spending.
Some of the Democrats only want to decide in the House of Representatives on the infrastructure package together with the budget that they have in mind. Democratic Speaker of the House of Parliament, Nancy Pelosi, has announced that both must be decided in pairs. The House of Representatives has already said goodbye to the parliamentary summer recess.