Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill Unveiled

August 3, 2021

After more than a month of frameworks and agreements in principle a 2,700 page bipartisan infrastructure package, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, was released late Sunday night. Senate negotiators and their staff worked throughout the weekend to finish the language for the bipartisan agreement, which will include $550 billion in new spending on roads, bridges, highways, and broadband and water infrastructure.

Senators Tom Carper (D-Dela.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), both part of the key negotiating group, are the two leads shepherding the package through floor action and navigating amendment debate as other senators try to make changes to the fragile bipartisan package. There are more than 150 amendments that have been submitted, and they cover a wide range of topics. For example, Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) has language that deals with hurricane assistance. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) is offering a provision on horse transportation. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) has an amendment that rescinds the Biden administration’s decision to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline. However, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have yet to reach a larger agreement on the number of amendments that will be allowed and how long the voting will continue before Schumer moves to cut it off.

Among the major new investments, the bipartisan package provides $110 billion for roads, bridges and major projects, $39 billion for public transit and $66 billion for railways. It also calls for $65 billion for broadband infrastructure deployment and $55 billion for water and wastewater infrastructure as well as billions for airports, ports, and electric vehicle charging stations.

Paying for the package has been a challenge after senators rejected ideas to raise revenue from a new gas tax or other streams. Instead, it is being financed from funding sources that might not pass muster with some Senators, including repurposing some $205 billion in untapped COVID-19 relief aid, as well as unemployment assistance that was turned back by some states and relying on projected future economic growth.

While Senate Majority Leader Schumer and negotiators are aiming for the Senate to clear the bipartisan bill by the end of the week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has publicly and privately committed to holding the physical infrastructure bill until the House receives the $3.5 trillion social spending package.

The outcome of the infrastructure will certainly set the stage for the next debate over President Biden’s much more ambitious $3.5 trillion package, a predominately partisan pursuit of programs and services including child care, tax cuts and health care improvements. Republicans strongly oppose the proposal, which would require a simple majority for passage. Final votes on that measure are not expected until fall.