December 5, 2021

Infrastructure bill passes House of Representatives

After months of contentious debate, an infrastructure bill proposing to spend $1 trillion over the next ten years passed the House of Representatives last Friday night. 

Voting was divided mostly by party lines with totals coming out to 228-208. 13 Republicans joined Democrats in supporting the bill, while six progressive Democrats voted against it due to a failure to bring a vote on the social spending package that many hoped to pair with the infrastructure bill.

Contention primarily stemmed from a struggle between House progressives and conservative Democrats over the passage of the social spending package Biden proposed. Biden wants both social spending and infrastructure spending to be passed together as part of his Build Back Better plan. 

Ultimately, the House conceded to delay putting the social package to a vote in order to pass the infrastructure bill. 

The bill has been heavily trimmed down from its original proposal of $3.5 trillion, mostly due to pressure from more conservative Democrats, including Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema

Even so, Biden remains hopeful that the passage of this bill will be the beginning of his trademark Build Back Better agenda.

The legislation focuses mostly on maintenance of federal roads and bridges, including an effort to reconnect neighborhoods divided by highways from the rest of their communities, which will primarily affect majority black neighborhoods harmed by redlining. 

Also included are expansions to rail and transit, an upgrade to broadband internet, funding for electric vehicles for public use, improvements to water and power, and upgrades to ports, waterways and airports. 

Some Democrats originally sought to include much more in the package, such as calls for energy regulation in response to climate change.

 Senator Manchin, who hails from West Virginia, was strongly opposed to these particular proposals, likely influenced by his home state’s dependence on the coal mining industry. Manchin also opposes expansion of paid family and medical leave, as well as calls for tuition-free community college. 

Manchin expressed a desire for means-testing of such a provision, wanting to ensure that only those with low income would benefit. Such a move is staunchly opposed by House progressives. 

Sinema has been less clear in her objections, mostly opposeding House progressives holding the infrastructure bill hostage in order to guarantee passage of a social spending bill. 

Biden has faith that the social spending package, which has been the source of much debate, will be able to pass the Senate through Democratic support.  

Progressives feared that moderate and conservative Democrats would delay or refuse to acknowledge social spending if the infrastructure bill was passed independently. 

This came to an end after Democratic Senators pledged support to social spending and House progressive Pramila Jayapal pledged support for the infrastructure bill.  

The passage of this legislation, as well as the possible passage of the social spending passage, may bolster Biden’s falling approval ratings, which have fallen to a mere 38%

Such a boost would be vital to maintaining a Democratic majority in the House, and possibly solidifying a Senate majority as midterms approach.   

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