House Passes the INVEST in America Act

By Matt Heller
Jul 01 2021 |
The Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, also known as the new Tappan Zee Bridge, pictured under construction. The bridge was built according to Buy America guidelines. Photo by New York State Thruway Authority

The advancement of the $715 billion investment package is a big step forward in the ongoing effort to rebuild our country’s crumbling infrastructure.

The House of Representatives on Thursday passed the INVEST in America Act of 2021, which includes a $715 billion investment in surface transportation and water infrastructure. The bill is a major down payment on improving our crumbling infrastructure, and includes critical Buy America preferences, which will create new manufacturing jobs.

All 219 Democrats voted in favor of passage, joined by two Republicans, Reps. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.).

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) spoke about the bill during a press conference on Wednesday, saying “it seizes a once in a century opportunity to rebuild America’s infrastructure.”

Here at the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM), we are pleased to see the INVEST in America Act passed with a bipartisan vote, as it acts on the infrastructure needs that we have long advocated for. AAM President Scott Paul issued a statement celebrating the bill’s passage — and encouraging Members of Congress and the Biden administration to do even more:

“Today’s passage of the INVEST in America Act is another important step forward on the long road toward rebuilding not just America’s infrastructure, but the middle class.

“By investing in infrastructure, we have the potential to create millions of new jobs, many of them good-paying, union jobs in manufacturing. And by applying Buy America to these projects, we will double-down on our investment, as our tax dollars will be reinvested right back into our economy instead of being sent overseas. Truly a win-win.

“But we must keep the momentum going. Congress and the Biden administration must now work together to approve and implement a once-in-a-generation infrastructure package that not only includes investments in roads, bridges, and rail, but also in critical areas like electric vehicle infrastructure and modernizing our energy grid. It’s time for the United States to lead the way in the 21st century.”

The INVEST in America Act includes $343 billion in spending on roads, bridges and safety, with an emphasis on repairing existing infrastructure and supporting electric vehicle infrastructure. It also includes $109 billion worth of funding for public transportation, including a 50% increase in funding for rural communities, and a $95 billion investment in passenger and freight rail that will triple funding to AMTRAK. Finally, the bill includes a $117 investment in drinking water infrastructure, including funding to remove and replace lead pipes nationwide.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), a longtime advocate for transportation investment, remarked on the importance of finally rebuilding infrastructure after years of letting it crumble (the American Society of Civil Engineers gives American infrastructure a C- grade, and many specific areas of infrastructure fall in the D range).

“This legislation captures that moment. It invests in the future, not in the past. It’s how we will heal divisions, revitalize the economy, and protect our planet,” Blumenauer said. 

The INVEST in America Act will also have the added benefit of making the U.S. more competitive on the global stage, which is particularly important given that countries like China have invested heavily in infrastructure and key sectors like electric vehicles.

“We can either let China capture another market from us, the future of transportation, or we can compete, in fact we can lead again,” said House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), who sponsored the bill.

Some Republicans, however, objected to the inclusion of electric vehicle provisions in the bill, and were worried about its impacts on our energy industry. Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) made the argument that “If [President] Biden truly believes in Buy America, let’s buy American energy and support American energy jobs.” The bill’s proponents, however, disagree with the premise that the bill will harm American energy independence, instead arguing it will transition the energy industry and its workers to the green economy that the future will inevitably require.

The bill still has a ways to go before it becomes law — some of the nuances that get left behind from the famous Schoolhouse Rock video. It must next go through the Senate, which has its own version of these bills. The differences between the House and Senate versions will need to be reconciled, and at a press conference Wednesday, Pelosi noted that a formal conference committee will likely be necessary later this fall.

Some of the surface transportation provisions in the bill will need to be reauthorized by October 1 or they will expire, giving lawmakers a must-pass deadline. Other provisions will likely face less urgency, and it is yet unclear which or all provisions will be part of a standalone surface transportation package, and which will be rolled into the larger bipartisan infrastructure framework and the American Jobs Plan, both currently working their way through Congress.

We’ll keep covering it here on this blog, so make sure to stay tuned. And if you haven’t already, be sure to tell your Members of Congress to invest in Made in America infrastructure!