After a day of stalemate, Democrats put aside divisions between progressives and centrists to adopt a $ 1 trillion package of freeway, broadband and other infrastructure improvements, sending it to President Joe Biden to sign the law.
The 228 to 206 vote on Friday night is a substantial triumph for Biden’s Democrats, who argued for months over the ambitious spending bills that make up the bulk of his national agenda.
Biden’s administration will now oversee the largest modernization of US roads, railways and other transportation infrastructure in a generation, which he pledged will create jobs and boost US competitiveness. .
Democrats still have a lot of work to do on the second pillar of Biden’s national agenda: a radical expansion of the social safety net and climate change programs. At a price of $ 1.75 trillion, this package would be the biggest expansion of the American safety net since the 1960s, but the party has struggled to unite behind it.
Democratic leaders had hoped to pass the two bills through the House on Friday, but postponed action after centrists demanded non-partisan accounting of its costs – a process that could take weeks.
After hours of closed-door meetings, a group of centrists vowed to vote for the bill by November 20 – as long as the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office finds its costs to match White House estimates.
“Welcome to my world. This is the Democratic Party,” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi told reporters earlier today. “We are not a lockdown party.”
The $ 1.75 trillion bill removed a procedural hurdle with a vote of 221 to 213 early Saturday, which will allow Democratic leaders to quickly plan a final vote when the time comes.
The stalemate came just days after Democrats suffered losses in closely watched state elections, raising fears they would lose control of Congress next year.
The infrastructure bill passed with the backing of 13 Republicans, fulfilling Biden’s promise to pass bipartisan legislation. The phrase “infrastructure week” had become a force in Washington during his predecessor Donald Trump’s four years in the White House, when plans to focus on these investments were repeatedly derailed by scandals.
“In generations, people will look back and know that was when America won the economic competition of the 21st century,” Biden said in a statement.
The party is eager to show that it can move the president’s agenda forward and meet the challenges of the 2022 midterm elections in which Republicans will seek to regain control of the two houses of Congress, which they lost to to Democrats under Trump.
Congress also faces looming December 3 deadlines to avoid a politically embarrassing government shutdown and an economically catastrophic default on federal government debt.
With very slim majorities in Congress and a united Republican opposition, Democrats need unity to pass legislation.
The infrastructure bill, which was passed by the Senate in August with 19 Republican votes, would fund a massive upgrade of America’s roads, bridges, airports, seaports and rail systems, while expanding the broadband internet service.
The “Build Back Better” package includes provisions for child care and preschool, senior care, health care, prescription drug pricing and immigration.
This would bolster the credibility of Biden’s pledge to halve U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2030 at the United Nations climate conference to be held in Glasgow, Scotland.
Republicans consistently oppose the legislation, portraying it as a dramatic government expansion that would hurt businesses.
“It is potentially a very dark day for America,” said Republican Representative Glenn Grothman, who called the childcare and preschool legislation a “Marxist” effort for the federal government raising children.
The non-partisan U.S. Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that the social spending bill would generate $ 1.48 trillion in new tax revenue over the next decade, below its cost of $ 1.75 trillion.
Pelosi and other leading Democrats said that ignored increased tax enforcement and savings resulting from falling prescription drug prices.