The Senate voted at midday August 10 to pass a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill to the House, with 69 voting for and 30 voting against.
The bill, much reduced in scope and scale from the version President Biden first proposed several months ago, has been billed as a compromise between the two parties. The latest bill includes $550 in new spending and will be funded largely by previously-allocated funds and spending cuts. It does not include an increase in the corporate tax rate, as originally proposed by Biden.
Despite its reduced size, the bill is still, by any account, big. It currently allocates:
- $110 billion for roads and bridges
- $105 billion on water infrastructure, including $55 billion on drinking water and lead pipe replacement and $50 billion on water systems resilience against droughts and cyberattacks
- $73.5 on upgraded power infrastructure, including $65 billion in upgraded power infrastructure like new transmission lines and $7.5 billion for a national network of electric vehicle chargers
- $66 billion on passenger rail, including $22 billion in grants for Amtrak
- $65 billion in broadband internet funding, to expand internet access for rural communities
- $39 billion in public transit programs and improve elderly/disabled access
- $25 billion in airport infrastructure
- $21 billion in environmental remediation for Superfund and brownfield sites
- $17 billion in port infrastructure
- $11 billion in transportation safety programs
- And $7.5 billion in new zero-emissions busses and ferries.
According to the White House, the categories above also include at least $6 billion that will “spur U.S. advanced battery processing, manufacturing, and recycling” and $2 billion to modernize and secure networks from cyberattacks and ransomware, including networks at the federal, state, local, infrastructure, utility, and private levels.
Many who opposed the bill cited its prodigious price tag. Criticism of the size of the bill intensified after the Congressional Budget Office estimated its passage would add $256 billion to the federal deficit over the coming decade.
According to the Associated Press, the bill will be funded by a wide variety of measures, including:
- $205 billion in funding from COVID-19 relief funds rejected by the states
- $87 billion from spectrum auctions for 5G services
- $56 billion from projected economic growth
- $49 billion from delaying implementation of a Medicare rule that passes rebates to beneficiaries
- $28 billion from strengthened tax enforcement on cryptocurrencies
- And $6 billion from selling part of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
Complicating the political situation, much of President Biden’s original, more ambitious bill, which included funding for social workers and included an increase in the corporate tax rate, will come up on the Senate’s docket next. Republicans unanimously oppose the proposal.
Industry Groups Respond
In a statement released just after the Senate Vote, NAM CEO Jay Timmons called its passage “a tremendous achievement” and said the bill would “revitalize our nation’s physical infrastructure” while leaving previous tax reforms intact. The NAM has separately cautioned against altering or undoing former President Trump’s 2017 tax reform, a move earlier versions of the infrastructure bill included.
The United Steelworkers praised the bill’s progress. “A comprehensive infrastructure investment that draws on the goods and services American workers supply will promote widespread job growth and economic opportunity,” the union said. USW represents 850,000 workers in metals and other industries, many of whom will be directly impacted by the bill. In the statement, the union said critical infrastructure investments are “long overdue.”
IPC, a global association of electronics manufacturers, also commended the bill. CEO John Mitchell said electronics manufacturers particularly appreciate the inclusion of smart manufacturing investments, and said the bill would drive economic growth.
The IPC has previously criticized the revival of the Superfund excise taxes used to fund $13 billion of the bill’s contents. The group cautioned that reinstating the Superfund taxes could increase costs for U.S. electronics manufacturers and consumer goods, and called on Congress to “find other, more appropriate methods to pay for this necessary investment in America’s aging infrastructure.”
The American Chemistry Council also criticized the reinstated Superfund excise taxes, saying they were “baffled” that the bill taxes “building block” materials for U.S. manufacturing. The taxes on 42 chemicals, minerals, and metallic elements, the ACC says, singles out the chemicals industry and could raise prices for consumer goods.
“We urge Congress and the Biden Administration to work with us to find ways to forestall this provision,” the ACC statement said, and added there’s still time to revise that section of the bill before the House votes on it.
This piece has been updated.