Biden Signs Trillion Dollar Infrastructure Bill into Law

It wasn’t easy, but President Joe Biden was able to score a crucial victory for his agenda by passing a sweeping infrastructure bill worth more than $1 trillion.

The infrastructure bill signed into law will inject over $500 billion in fresh spending for highway and bridge construction. (Image source: stock photo.)

The infrastructure bill signed into law will inject over $500 billion in fresh spending for highway and bridge construction. (Image source: stock photo.)

After months of hand-wringing, internal bickering, finger wagging from pundits and a vote that came down to the wire, the U.S. House of Representatives finally passed a massive infrastructure package last week that had previously passed a bipartisan Senate back in August. The bill delivers a massive injection of $1.2 trillion to rebuild the country’s failing infrastructure. The signing of the plan comes at a critical time for President Joe Biden, who faces slumping poll numbers and whose Democratic party was soundly beaten in several key races in November’s elections.

“The bill I’m about to sign into law is proof that despite the cynics, Democrats and Republicans can come together and deliver results. We can do this. We can deliver real results for real people,” Biden said, speaking from the South Lawn at the White House.

“Here in Washington, we’ve heard countless speeches and promises and white papers from experts. But today we’re finally getting this done. So, my message to the American people is this: America’s moving again, and your life is going to change for the better,” the president continued.

The final bill falls short of Biden’s initial  plan and is more narrowly focused on traditional infrastructure like roads, bridges, airports, ports and water resources, leaving out things like childcare and home healthcare workers, which the president and his party had hoped to bundle into a new-age definition of infrastructure. The Democrats are attempting to shift some of those funds into their annual budget, which is part of the reason they are facing some pushback from Republicans and moderate members of their own party. Regardless, President Biden’s infrastructure plan delivers over $500 million of entirely new spending for transportation and energy projects. That bucket of funds includes $110 billion for roads and bridges, $66 billion for high-speed Internet access and over $25 billion for airports and $65 billion for passenger rail lines.

The infrastructure bill also includes billions in funding for rural broadband networks. (Image source: stock photo.)

The infrastructure bill also includes billions in funding for rural broadband networks. (Image source: stock photo.)

Unlike the 2009 relief bill that was meant to bring America back from the 2008-2009 financial crisis, Biden’s bill is clearly focused on key areas of need, like building out broadband networks in rural, underserved areas. The 2009 bill’s purpose was to turn on the spigot and let money flow out as quickly as possible to prevent a total economic collapse. The worst of the COVID-19 recession seems to be behind the country, so this infrastructure bill is more focused on maximizing impact. Rural areas were impacted more severely than urban centers as the economy became increasingly digital. The Americans who stand to benefit most from a massive investment in rural broadband are often the same voters who feel increasingly ignored and left out by politicians and those who are cast as coastal elites. High-speed Internet has the potential to drive massive economic growth in underserved regions while also improving educational outcomes for students.

This infrastructure bill, hammered out by centrist members of each party, drew the ire of progressives within the Democratic caucus, who believed that it fell well short of addressing climate change and adding more renewable energy to the nation’s power supply. Despite notable defections by members of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, there were still enough votes to pass the bill thanks to 13 Republican representatives who crossed the aisle to vote yes.

Even if the deal that passed the Senate is short on funding for climate change in the eyes of some Democrats, it will include $15 billion for clean energy buses and public transportation vehicles and electric vehicle charging stations, $65 billion to upgrade the power grid, another $50 billion to address climate change, $21 billion for environmental cleanup and remediation, and $55 billion for clean drinking water.

No matter how you slice it, that’s a lot of money devoted to protecting the environment and attempting to stave off climate change, and quite a sum for a bill that was able to receive the blessing of 19 Republican Senators. This infrastructure investment is over a decade in the making and marks the first major spending bill since the Obama administration’s first term. Years of empty talk and campaign platitudes have been erased thanks to bipartisan cooperation and a deal-making president who has continued to be a champion of infrastructure.

“Even a smaller bill can make historic investments—historic investments in childcare, daycare, clean energy,” Biden told House Democrats in a rare visit to Congress as he worked to gain support for a social spending package in the neighborhood of $2 trillion.

As the economy continues to feel the effects of COVID-19, the bill may provide an ideal opportunity to stoke the flames of a strong and rapid recovery from last year’s prolonged shutdowns. The recovery has been hampered over the last few months by shipping bottlenecks and supply chain breakdowns. Without passage of the Biden infrastructure plan, getting out in front of these problems before they completely cripple the economy may have been difficult. Infrastructure has always been a popular talking point to rally the troops for just enough bipartisanship camaraderie under the guise of getting things done before the football is inevitably pulled away at the last second.

With the ink drying on the bill, states can begin preparing to put their dollars to work, and there certainly is a lengthy backlog of infrastructure work to be done. Funding is earmarked to help reunite communities of color that were fractured by the interstate system. California, one of the states most impacted by climate change, will receive millions of dollars to upgrade the dams, aqueducts and levees that are crucial to providing residents with drinking water during peak drought season. New Jersey may finally be able to complete its Gateway Tunnel that would unclog the train route that connects the state to New York City. With the new funding, Superfund sites will be cleaned up and miles of lead pipes dug out of the ground and replaced. The impacts of this infrastructure funding could be immeasurable.

As divided and fractured as the country has become politically, infrastructure and construction remain incredibly popular among Americans of all political walks of life. There’s no better target for consensus among Americans who are divided politically than repairing crumbling roads and bridges. Virtually every single citizen of this country stands to benefit when potholes are filled in, airport terminals are expanded and structurally deficient bridges are replaced. The impacts are felt and seen almost immediately by drivers every single day, not to mention the effect of millions of stable jobs that will be created. Infrastructure spending is not wasteful spending, and the payoff is often felt and seen immediately.

An infrastructure bill of this magnitude should have been a slam-dunk victory for both political parties and a reason to celebrate bipartisanship and accomplishing something important for voters in all 50 states. Unfortunately, it’s never that easy in Washington, but a deal ultimately got done because lawmakers were willing to look past their personal agendas and short-term point scoring and agree on a solution that is a victory across the board for the country.