On Monday, President Biden signed the long-anticipated infrastructure bill into law, the culmination of his promise to improve America’s physical infrastructures and a victory of bipartisan cooperation.
The $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill includes $550 billion in new federal spendings over the span of five years. The funds will go to two major categories: transportation and utilities. Several key areas, such as repairing and rebuilding roads and bridges, extending railroads, and improving public transits, will receive a large proportion of the funding. The bill devotes $73 billion to upgrading the power grids, making them more resistant against extreme weather, like the snowstorm that hit Texas in February and caused a major power outage. Another $47 billion will go to preparing regions for hurricanes, flooding, and wildfires. $17 billion will go to improving ports and waterways, a proportion of which is designated to relieve storage pressure off major ports that are heavily congested at the moment. The bill also provides $7.5 billion for electric vehicles, which will go to manufactures and the construction of up to 500,000 charging stations across the nation.
The bill, however, completely left out some of the areas included in Biden’s original $2.6 billion proposal and significantly shrunk several others. Biden’s plan put a heavy emphasis on “human infrastructures” aside from physical infrastructures, proposing funds to public housing, schools, hospitals, health care, research, and around $400 billion worth of clean air tax credit. None of these made it Into the final bipartisan bill, a departure from Biden’s promise to battle environmental problems and racial inequality.
These compromises, however, were necessary for drawing the support of a group of House and Senate Republicans, including key figures like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Lindsay Graham, who is widely considered to be an ally of the former president Donald J. Trump. The Senate passed the bill back in August, and the House followed suit in early November with a vote of 228 to 206. Six House Democrats voted against the bill, highlighting the split between the moderates and progress caucus of the party.
“Let’s remember what we’ve got done for the American people,” Biden remarked during the signing ceremony on Monday, “I truly believe that 50 years from now, historians are going to look back at this moment and say, that’s the moment America began to win the competition of the 21st century.” While the infrastructure bill did fall short of his ambition, the size and scale of the added spendings still pose challenges to the federal bureaucracy to implement. To address the challenges, Biden has named Brian Deese, the director of the National Economic Council, and Mitch Landrieu, former mayor of New Orlean, to head the newly formed White House task force.
According to the administration, some of the projects included in the infrastructure bill will begin as soon as next year. Billions of dollars will go to improving broadband to provide modern and fast-speed internet to remote communities. A project aimed to improve water systems by removing lead pipes is also underway. As for the social portion of Biden’s original proposal, also known as the “Build Back Better” bill, the House is expected to vote on it today.