WASHINGTON — President Biden announced on Thursday that the White House and a group of bipartisan senators had reached a deal on a $579 billion infrastructure plan.
“It’s been a very long time since the last time our country was able to strike a major bipartisan deal on American infrastructure,” Biden said at the White House.
Biden said he and congressional Democrats had to concede some on what’s known as “human infrastructure,” such as investments for childcare and spending on climate change. Democrats will instead look to pass additional spending in a separate bill through a Senate budgetary process called reconciliation, which requires only a simple majority to pass legislation.
The bipartisan proposal allocates $312 billion toward traditional infrastructure priorities such as roads, bridges, public transit, airports and waterways. The bulk of the remainder will be invested in water, broadband and power grid restoration, according to a fact sheet provided by the White House.
The administration says it hopes to invest $1.2 trillion in infrastructure over the next eight years — a number likely to disappoint climate activists, who continue to urge Biden to make a $10 trillion investment over the next decade.
The text of the bill is not yet publicly available, and it may face headwinds in Congress despite support from moderate Republicans. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has not said yet whether he supports the agreement.
But during his Thursday remarks at the White House, Biden said he expected the deal to make its way to his desk, and praised several Republican senators for their work in the negotiations, including Mitt Romney of Utah, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine.
“Mitt Romney has never broken his word to me. You know, the senator from Alaska, the senator from Maine, they’ve never broken their word,” said Biden, who was accompanied by Vice President Kamala Harris. “They’re friends. The people I was with today are people that I trust.”
He also said the bill was a sign to the world that democracy still works, and that it would help the U.S. compete with geopolitical rivals like China. “This agreement signals to the world that we can function, deliver and do significant things,” he said.
An infrastructure package has been a top priority of the administration, although progress was slow going in recent weeks. Talks between the White House and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., fell apart earlier this month, and progressives within the Democratic caucus had balked at passing any bill that didn’t spend substantial amounts to target climate change. But Biden, who spent 36 years in the Senate, said a deal had always been within reach.
“Everybody tells me what my party is. My party is ‘divided.’ Well, my party is divided ... but my party’s also rational. If they can’t get every single thing they want, but all they have in the bill before them is good, are they going to vote no? I don’t think so,” Biden said.
He indicated, however, that he would sign the bipartisan infrastructure bill only if the additional Democratic bill also made its way through the reconciliation process.
“If this is the only thing that comes to me, I’m not signing it. It’s in tandem,” Biden said.
Cover thumbnail photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AP
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