US House passes infrastructure bill after months of delay

196

The US House of Representatives has passed a bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure bill after months of delay amid Democratic infighting over a social spending package, sending the long-waited legislation to President Joe Biden for his signature.

The bill was approved in the lower chamber in a 228-206 vote late Friday night, with 13 Republicans joining Democrats in support of the legislation. Six progressive Democrats voted against it, reports Xinhua news agency.

Biden is expected to sign the bill, which is considered a major priority for his administration.

In late March, Biden unveiled a roughly $2 trillion infrastructure plan, which was harshly criticised by Republican lawmakers, who argued it was not targeted on infrastructure and was too costly.

After months of negotiations, a bipartisan group of Senators reached an agreement on a roughly $1 trillion infrastructure bill, which includes $550 billion in new spending on infrastructure projects, such as roads, bridges, passenger rails, drinking water and waste water systems.

The rest of the package involves previously approved spending.

The Senate approved the bill in August. Progressive House Democrats have held up the Senate-passed bill for months, demanding a vote on the larger social spending plan, the size and scope of which have been a source of contention within the Democratic Party.

Democrats planned to pass both the infrastructure bill and the party’s shrunken $1.75 trillion social spending package, which together made up the core of Biden’s domestic agenda, but failed to advance the latter.

Progressives and centrists, however, agreed to approve the long-delayed infrastructure bill with a commitment to take up the social spending bill no later than the week of November 15, according to Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal.

Ahead of the vote, Biden tweeted he is confident that during the week of November 15, the House will pass the so-called Build Back Better Act, which focuses on childcare, education, health care, and climate policy.

The social spending package is expected to be approved in the Senate via the budget reconciliation process, which only requires a simple majority to pass legislation, allowing Democrats to approve the bill without Republican votes.

Democrats previously unveiled a $3.5 trillion budget resolution, but the package hit a stalemate due to the last two centrist holdouts in the Senate, namely Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

Manchin has repeatedly taken issue with the sky-high price tag of the legislation, and has held fast to a top-line figure of $1.5 trillion for the package.

Following weeks of intensive negotiations with congressional Democrats, Biden last week unveiled a framework for a $1.75 trillion social spending package, which includes $555 billion in clean energy and climate investments; $400 billion in funding for child care and free preschool; $200 billion in child tax and earned income tax credits; and $150 billion in investments for affordable housing.

The framework seeks to impose new taxes on the largest corporations and the wealthiest Americans to raise revenue of around $2 trillion over a decade to fully pay for the social spending plan, according to a fact sheet released by the White House.

Republicans have repeatedly lashed out at the massive spending plan.

–IANS

ksk/