The Washington Post


Today at 8:44 a.m. EDT

The U.S. Senate on Tuesday is set to approve a sweeping $1.2 trillion proposal to improve the nation’s roads, bridges, pipes, ports and internet connections, advancing a historic burst in federal spending after years of failed attempts on Capitol Hill to invest anew in the country’s aging infrastructure.

The soon-scheduled vote caps off weeks of turbulent private talks and fierce public debates that sometimes teetered on collapse, as the White House labored alongside Democrats and Republicans to achieve the sort of deal that had eluded them for years. Even though the proposal must still clear the House, where some Democrats recently have raised concerns that the measure falls short of what they seek, the Senate outcome is poised to move the bill one step closer to delivering President Biden his first major bipartisan win.

The roughly $1.2 trillion package, nearly half of which constitutes new spending, would mark the most significant investment in the country’s inner-workings since Congress marshaled a massive yet smaller rescue bill in the shadow of the 2009 Great Recession. It would marry lawmakers’ desire for immediate, urgently needed fixes to the country’s crumbling infrastructure with longer-term goals to combat challenges including climate change.

The bill proposes more than $110 billion to replace and repair roads, bridges and highways, and $66 billion to boost passenger and freight rail. That transit investment marks the most significant infusion of cash in the country’s railways since the creation of Amtrak roughly a half-century ago, according to the White House.

The infrastructure plan sets aside an additional $55 billion to address lingering issues in the nation’s water supply, including an effort to replace every lead pipe in the United States. It allocates $65 billion to modernize the country’s power grid. And it devotes billions in additional sums to rehabilitating water ways, improving airports and expanding broadband internet service, particularly after a pandemic that forced Americans to transact much of their lives online.

Lawmakers also agreed to authorize a significant tranche of funding to improve the environment and respond to the oft-deadly consequences of a fast-warming planet. The aid includes $7.5 billion to build out a national network of electric vehicle charging stations, a major priority for Biden, who has worked to advance the next generation of emissions-friendly vehicles. And it apportions $47 billion to respond to wildfires, droughts, coastal erosion, heatwaves and other climate crises that previously have wrought significant economic havoc across the country.

In recent weeks, Biden has hailed the proposal, which the White House helped craft alongside its chief congressional authors, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat from Arizona, and Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican from Ohio. The two for weeks shepherded a group of 10 lawmakers from both parties toward a compromise that could thread a needle — proffering the massive investments Biden initially sought without raising alarms among spending-wary Republicans.

“It will improve the lives of all Americans,” Portman said in a floor speech this weekend as lawmakers prepared to vote. “People do expect here in America, [with] this great economy we have, we should also be able to lead the world in infrastructure. But we don’t.”

Lawmakers also jettisoned Biden’s plan to raise taxes on corporations to finance the new infrastructure investments, a nonstarter for Republicans, who strained to protect the tax cuts they instituted under President Donald Trump four years ago. Instead, their new legislative effort relies on a mix of odd measures — and potential budgetary gimmicks — to try to offset the roughly $1 trillion price tag. An official analysis of the bill by the Congressional Budget Office on Thursday found that lawmakers fell short, threatening to add more than $250 billion to the deficit over the next decade.