There's an unfortunate dynamic that's common during legislative fights: Ahead of a vote, much of the focus is on the process, not on the contents. Some of this is unavoidable because as the process unfolds, the substance of legislation is constantly changing, and providing the public with substantive details about a moving target is awfully difficult.
As a result, Americans often don't know about the merits of legislation until after the bill has passed and news outlets can take stock of the finished product. With this in mind, now is an excellent time to shine a light on the new bipartisan infrastructure package, which President Joe Biden will soon sign into law. NBC News reported on Saturday morning:
The House passed a $555 billion infrastructure bill on Friday night, sending the legislation to President Joe Biden who is expected to quickly sign the measure into law. The funding package, which passed 228 to 206 and relied on Republican votes to get across the finish line, will ramp up government spending on roads, bridges and airports, as well as funding for public transit, water and broadband.
Right off the bat, the price tag is of interest. The public has probably seen different reports referencing competing topline totals — some outlets are calling this a $1.2 trillion plan, while others point to a figure roughly half that size — and both are accurate depending on one's perspective.
The issue is one of budgetary math: The newly passed legislation includes over $1 trillion in infrastructure investments, but much of that money was already scheduled to be spent anyway. (This is generally known as budget "baseline.") That said, Congress has agreed to $555 billion in new infrastructure spending, which is going to make a positive difference in a variety of areas. From the Associated Press' rundown:
- $110 billion will go toward repairs for highways, bridges, and roads. This includes the largest investment in bridges since the creation of the national highway system.
- $66 billion will go toward passenger and freight rail.
- $65 billion will go toward expanding broadband access, with a special emphasis on rural areas, low-income communities, and tribal communities.
- $65 billion will go toward strengthening the power grid.
- $55 billion will go toward water and wastewater infrastructure, including funds to replace lead pipes.
- $39 billion will go toward public transit, including repairs to buses and rail cars.
- $25 billion will go to airport improvements, including funds for aging air traffic control towers.
- $7.5 billion will go toward electric vehicle charging stations.
Though this isn't generally seen as a climate bill, per se, there are provisions directly related to the climate crisis, including the power grid investments, as well as billions of dollars in investments to mitigate damage from floods, wildfires, and droughts.
It's no secret that the original White House plan was much more ambitious, and if passed, it would have had an even more dramatic impact. But that doesn't change the fact that this package will make a significant difference.