Washington (AP) – The US Senate has passed legislation by an unbiased majority for an infrastructure package worth about US$550 billion (€466 billion). Weeks of tough negotiations preceded the vote.
US President Joe Biden’s Democrats, who have 50 seats in the Senate, needed the approval of at least 10 Republicans to get the legislative process started. 67 senators voted in favor of the initiative Wednesday evening (local time), 32 against.
According to a White House announcement, the package will include $550 billion in “new federal investment in U.S. infrastructure” and create millions of jobs. Biden, who has been actively promoting the package for months, praised the compromise as a sign to the world that American democracy could continue to achieve great things. It is “the most important long-term investment in our infrastructure and competitiveness in nearly a century,” he said.
In the coming years, the funds will be used for roads, bridges, ports, airports, local transport and rail. In addition, money is being reserved for the modernization of the power supply and the expansion of the charging stations for electric cars.
In the spring, Biden initially announced plans to spend about $2 trillion (€1.7 trillion) on infrastructure renewal over the next eight years. However, the project and its planned financing through tax increases met strong opposition from Republicans.
Agreement and compromise
Senate Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer now said the goal is to finalize the infrastructure package and negotiate the next budget before the August summer break. “There may be some long nights and weekends, but we’ll make it,” Schumer said after the vote. The precise scope and content of the infrastructure package may change during the legislative process in the Senate and subsequently in the House of Representatives.
Many Republicans also dismiss the compromise package as too expensive or unnecessary given the booming US economy. For example, ex-President Donald Trump was angry about the planned package of measures in a message: “This is a loss to the US, a terrible deal that makes Republicans look weak, stupid and stupid.” This will be a win for Biden and the Democrats will cannibalize him for next year’s congressional elections, he warned. The measures “continue the destruction of our country,” angry Trump.
According to the White House, some $110 billion from the package will be used over five years to expand or renovate roads and bridges. Nearly $40 billion will go into expanding local public transportation and another $66 billion to the railroad company Amtrak. Money is also being reserved for the expansion of charging stations for electric cars and for the promotion of electric buses. A total of $42 billion has been set aside for ports and airports. The package is also intended to fund the expansion of high-speed internet connections and improvements to water supplies, including the replacement of all lead pipes. More than $70 billion will also be spent on modernizing the electricity infrastructure.
The specific counter-funding and duration of the package sounded a bit vague in the White House announcement. The measures would be financed by reallocating unused funds from the latest economic stimulus package, targeted incentives for businesses and stronger action against tax evasion.