Tue, 28 Sep 2021

Biden, Centrist Lawmakers Reach Infrastructure Deal

Voice of America
29 Jul 2021, 08:05 GMT+10

WASHINGTON - U.S. President Joe Biden and a group of centrist Republican and Democratic senators said Wednesday they had reached agreement on a new U.S. infrastructure spending package after weeks of wrangling over the details of what to include and how to pay for it.

The White House declared that the roughly $1 trillion package, including $550 billion in new allocations, would add about 2 million jobs to the U.S. economy each year for a decade. Many of those will be in construction work to repair the country's deteriorating roads and bridges, build new broadband connections in rural areas of the U.S. and improve transit and water infrastructure.

The U.S. Senate could begin debate on the package Wednesday evening although final passage of the measure could be weeks away.

The White House said the package, one of Biden's biggest legislative priorities, "will grow the economy, enhance our competitiveness, create good jobs, and make our economy more sustainable, resilient, and just."

While Biden had reached a basic agreement with five Republican and five Democratic centrist lawmakers a month ago, the lawmakers and White House negotiators stalemated over how much to spend on specific types of infrastructure.

Republican Senators Rob Portman, center, joined by, from left, Lisa Murkowski, Bill Cassidy, Susan Collins, and Mitt Romney, announces an agreement with Democrats on a $1 trillion infrastructure bill, at the Capitol in Washington, July 28, 2021. Republican Senators Rob Portman, center, joined by, from left, Lisa Murkowski, Bill Cassidy, Susan Collins, and Mitt Romney, announces an agreement with Democrats on a $1 trillion infrastructure bill, at the Capitol in Washington, July 28, 2021.

The deal, according to the White House, includes the biggest federal investment in public transit ever, $39 billion, to upgrade and expand rail and bus systems, as well as the biggest-ever expenditure for passenger rail service since the creation of the existing Amtrak passenger rail system in 1971.

The spending plan calls for significant spending for bridges, clean drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, access for all Americans to high-speed internet, electric vehicle charging stations and improvements for the country's electric grid.

"We now have an agreement on the major issues," said Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, the lead Republican negotiator with Democrats. "We are prepared to move forward."

Biden voiced his approval as he toured a truck plant in Pennsylvania. "I feel confident about it," he said.

Biden, six months into his four-year presidency, views the infrastructure package as especially important to show voters that bipartisan deals can be worked out in politically fractious Washington.

Portman said the package will be "more than paid for," although the White House was vaguer in describing the funding.

The White House said the deal "will generate significant economic benefits." It said the package will be paid for with "a combination of redirecting unspent emergency relief funds, targeted corporate user fees, strengthening tax enforcement when it comes to crypto currencies, and other bipartisan measures, in addition to the revenue generated from higher economic growth as a result of the investments."

Now, Biden is planning to advance, solely with the votes of Democratic lawmakers and no Republican support, a more ambitious $3.5 trillion human infrastructure package focusing on child care, tax breaks and health care that touch almost every aspect of American life.

It would be paid for by raising the country's corporate tax rate and taxes on individuals earning more than $400,000 annually, both of which Republicans oppose.

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