Senate approves trillion-dollar bipartisan infrastructure bill

The US Senate has approved a trillion-dollar (£722 billion) infrastructure plan after a rare coalition of Democrats and Republicans joined forces to deliver a cornerstone of Joe Biden’s agenda.

The 69-30 tally provides momentum for this first phase of the president’s Build Back Better priorities, which will now head to the House of Representatives.

A sizable number of legislators showed they were willing to set aside partisan pressures, eager to send billions of dollars to their states for rebuilding roads, broadband internet, water pipes and the public works systems that underpin much of American life.

Infrastructure was once a mainstay of legislating, but the weeks-long slog to strike a compromise showed how hard it has become for Congress to tackle routine legislating, even on shared priorities.

“There’s been detours and everything else, but this will do a whole lot of good for America,” said Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer.

The outline for Mr Biden’s bigger 3.5 trillion dollar (£2.5 trillion) package is next up for the Senate — a more liberal undertaking of child care, elder care and other programmes that is much more partisan and expected to draw only Democratic support.

Tuesday’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act started with a group of 10 senators who seized on Mr Biden’s campaign promise to draft a scaled-down version of his initial 2.3 trillion dollar proposal, one that could more broadly appeal to both parties in a divided Congress, especially the 50-50 Senate.

It swelled to a 2,700-page bill backed by the president and also business, labour and farm interests, and drew an expansive alliance of senators and a bipartisan group in the House.

Vice President Kamala Harris, as presiding officer, announced the final Senate tally.

Kamala Harris (J Scott Applewhite/AP)

While liberal legislators said the package does not go far enough as a down payment on Mr Biden’s priorities, and conservatives said it is too costly and should be more fully paid for, the coalition of centrist senators was able to hold.

Even a barrage of broadsides from former president Donald Trump could not bring the bill down.

“This infrastructure bill is not the perfect bill,” said Republican senator Lisa Murkowski, one of the negotiators, adding: “It’s better to get some of what our constituents want rather than none of it.”

The measure proposes nearly 550 billion dollars (£397 billion) in new spending over five years in addition to current federal authorisations for public works that will reach virtually every corner of the country — a potentially historic expenditure Mr Biden has put on par with the building of the transcontinental railroad or interstate highway system.

There is money to rebuild roads and bridges, and also to shore up coastlines against climate change, protect public utility systems from cyberattacks and modernise the electric grid.

Public transport gets a boost, as do airports and freight rail, and most lead drinking water pipes in America could be replaced.

The top Democratic negotiator, Kyrsten Sinema, said rarely will a piece of legislation affect so many Americans.


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