A sweeping new investment plan to modernize US infrastructure overcame a key legislative hurdle in the US Senate on Sunday, with legislation called “historic” by President Joe Biden now almost certain to become law.
The bill, drafted months ago, provides $ 550 billion in new federal spending for the country’s aging infrastructure, including funds to slow the effects of climate change.
The total price of $ 1.2 trillion – equal to Spain’s annual economic output – includes some funds previously approved but not yet spent.
On Sunday night, the bill largely overcame several procedural votes in the Senate, with the slim Democratic majority bolstered by the support of more than a third of Republicans.
It is now moving to a final vote, with lawmakers ready to approve it as early as Monday if a deal can be reached.
But while there is now no doubt that the Senate will approve the nearly 2,700-page text, its future is less certain in the House of Representatives, where left-wing and centrist factions have clashed over the scale of the spending.
Biden, a 36-year veteran of Senate maneuvers, has been following the progress of the bill closely, and White House officials have said he would not hesitate to phone hesitant senators if necessary.
Making a last-minute plea for the passage, Biden tweeted on Saturday that the bill represented a “historic one-generation investment in our country’s infrastructure.”
“We cannot afford not to do it,” he added.
A rare alliance between Democratic and Republican supporters of the law accelerated the passage of the bill in the Senate, where legislative work was stalled for years by bipartisan obstruction.
But their efforts were hampered by opposition from Republican Senator Bill Hagerty, a former ambassador to Japan under the administration of former President Donald Trump, who over the weekend warned GOP lawmakers that they could face major challenges if they supported the legislation.
That did not prevent eighteen of them – including influential top Republican Mitch McConnell -om agreeing to submit the text to a final vote on Sunday.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that the plan will add $ 256 billion to the deficit between 2021 and 2031, numbers that have fueled Republicans’ opposition to the law.
Supporters of the bill point out that the CBO cannot formally take into account all the additional savings and revenues that the bill will bring, which will cover the cost of these measures.
© 2021 AFP