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US Senate Adopts $1 Trillion Infrastructure Package

A worker installs fiber optic cable to bring broadband internet service to a rural area near Belfair, Wash., Aug. 4, 2021. High-speed internet is a key area of President Biden's $1 trillion infrastructure package passed by the Senate Aug. 10, 2021.

The U.S. Senate, in a rare bipartisan vote of approval in politically fractious Washington, adopted Tuesday a $1 trillion infrastructure plan to fix the country’s deteriorating roads and bridges and expand broadband internet service.

The 69-to-30 vote for the measure, one of the biggest U.S. public works efforts in years, sends the legislation to the House of Representatives for consideration in September. House passage is less certain, with some progressive Democrats saying the total spending is too little.

The White House supports the package, one of the cornerstones of President Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign. It’s an attempt by him to show voters that Republican and Democratic lawmakers can agree on major legislation at a time when they are divided on numerous other issues, including taxation, immigration policies, social welfare spending and more.

On the final vote, 19 of the 50 Republicans in the Senate joined all 50 members of the Democratic caucus to approve the legislation. Republicans who supported it ignored pleas from former president Donald Trump to vote against it, even though Trump while in office supported an even bigger infrastructure package that never came to fruition.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., left, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of N.Y., right, walk out of a budget resolution meeting at the Capitol in Washington, Aug. 9, 2021.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., left, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of N.Y., right, walk out of a budget resolution meeting at the Capitol in Washington, Aug. 9, 2021.

The infrastructure spending, with nearly half of it in new government funding, would repair aging roads and bridges and broadband expansion, pay for replacement of dangerous lead-piped drinking water systems, add new sewer infrastructure, expand passenger rail and transit systems, and make airport improvements.

A group of 10 centrist Republican and Democratic lawmakers agreed more than a month ago on the outlines of the deal, but it took the weeks since then to craft the specifics of a more than 2,700-page piece of legislation. Biden says the measure would add nearly 200,000 jobs a year, most of them in the construction trades, to the U.S. economy over the next decade.

When he first announced the plan in March, Biden said, “The United States of America is the wealthiest country in the world, yet we rank 13th when it comes to the overall quality of our infrastructure.”

“After decades of disinvestment, our roads, bridges, and water systems are crumbling,” he said, “Our electric grid is vulnerable to catastrophic outages. Too many lack access to affordable, high-speed Internet and to quality housing.”

Biden since then has often pushed for its adoption, saying it was essential for economic growth and in competition with its chief economic rival, China.

Next on tap for the Senate is consideration of Biden’s much larger $3.5 trillion social safety net legislation that would provide universal pre-kindergarten instruction, free community college classes, expanded health care for older Americans, childcare funding, money to combat the effects of climate change, make immigration law changes and attempt to lower prescription drug prices.

Republicans are uniformly panning the proposal, and so far, none support it. Democrats in the Senate are hoping to band together to pass the outlines of the spending on a 51-50 vote, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote.

But it could take months of negotiations in both the Senate and House, in conjunction with Biden and his aides, to spell out the specifics of the legislation.

Some information for this report came from the Associated Press and Reuters.