The next step is finding consensus with the other 79 senators and the entire House.
President Biden has long prioritized getting a big public infrastructure investment passed. And this week, he’s a step closer to getting one: He announced an agreement with a group of 21 senators on the outline of a such a bill.
Look how happy everyone is here. That’s a lot of geniality, which is not something you see every day in national politics: Democrats and Republicans, shakin’ hands, agreeing to new spending on the public good:
This kinda consensus is a big part of President Biden’s political brand. And while it took a lot to get here – the numbers in this deal are approximately half the size of the infrastructure package the Biden administration first pitched this spring – it still pledges a lot of money for a lot of stuff over the course of eight years. Lots of money for roads and bridges, and notably $65 billion to build out broadband internet. If you live in a place in 2021 where the Wifi is chronically spotty, that’s a big deal.
Heck, a $1.2 trillion bill, with $579 billion in new spending, is a big deal everywhere. But now the so-called “group of 21” and President Biden will need to sell this framework to the other 79 senators and 435 House members who have their own ideas on the size of the package and the policies that go along with the spending. Not an easy task!
Remember, this is just the outline, and it’s short on details. For instance, it’s notable the agreement doesn’t even mention Buy America policies or whether these investments will be American-made so that American factory workers benefit from the spending. The agreement relies on newly created programs – including new financing mechanisms to leverage private investment – that will need to be carefully scrutinized to see whether China would be able to access the spending under these programs. Meanwhile, progressives are bristling that the plan doesn’t go far enough to address their environmental and equity concerns. So, you know, bottom line: This is far from over.
Before the ink was dry, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) declared that this deal would only move if paired with a larger package to address climate issues and “human infrastructure” under a process called “budget reconciliation.” We’ve written here that the administration’s Build Back Better proposals are an opportunity to pivot the American economy onto a clean energy-powered infrastructure. Among other things, this should include targeted investments to help clean energy industries develop here at home, and that all still needs to happen.
But first things first. We have an outline of a significant infrastructure bill. That’s a good start! Let’s now turn our attention to its contours as it takes shape, and let’s make sure this thing supports American manufacturing with strong Buy America policies.