$ 1 billion for clean energy, the internet, trains and more


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The future of a billion dollar (£ 722 billion) infrastructure bill is still on the line. But it’s not just its size that makes it historic.

The U.S. House of Representatives will hold a vote on the plan on Thursday, more than a month after it was passed by the 100-member Senate, 69-30.

It is only after securing the approval of the House that the long-awaited bill will travel to President Joe Biden’s office for a final signature.

It won’t be easy, even if Mr. Biden’s Democrats control the chamber and a handful of House Republicans are expected to vote in favor of the legislation.

Progressive and moderate Democrats are currently divided in their support. Moderates see infrastructure bill as a priority, where progressives insist on pushing forward with yet another bill that offers $ 3.5 billion for social spending and anti-change policies climate.

But as this onerous “once in a generation” legislation continues to weave its way through the halls of Capitol Hill, let’s leave the debates on the floor and instead take a look at the more interesting numbers that emerge from them.

There is a proposed $ 550 billion in direct federal spending on infrastructure – roughly what was spent in 1956 to build the US interstate highway system. But from solving global warming issues to remote working issues, it’s not your grandparents’ infrastructure package.

Short gray line of presentation

Short gray line of presentation

$ 110 billion for what you think of as infrastructure

Roads, bridges, major projects – lawmakers have allocated about a fifth of the federal spending in this bill for all the things that come to mind with the word infrastructure. This could be called late; a 2019 World Economic Forum report places the United States in the top 10 among other rich countries for transportation infrastructure. And 20% of major highways and roads as well as 45,000 bridges are considered to be in poor condition, according to the White House.

An additional $ 55 billion is also planned for hydraulic infrastructure, to replace lead pipes and guarantee access to drinking water.

$ 66 billion for trains

That trains feature in this historic legislation is not surprising under a president with an Amtrak station named after him. While this is less money than Mr Biden initially hoped, $ 66 billion has been set aside to modernize passenger and freight trains, with subsidies also for intercity and high-speed train services. . The funds would also be used to connect more areas with the rail, beyond the east coast.

$ 65 billion for broadband internet

The digital divide has become a bigger problem in recent years – with inequalities highlighted as the pandemic fades away. This award aims to connect millions of people living in rural and low-income communities with reliable internet access. Companies that receive a share of this government funding will have to offer cheaper packages and allow customers to compare costs. A program to subsidize the Internet and related technologies for low-income families is also underway.

$ 73 billion for clean energy

Going green and clean was a big part of Mr. Biden’s campaign promises. Its previous hopes of more than $ 100 billion in clean energy have been temporarily dashed, but this bill invests billions in new power lines, rebuilding old U.S. power grids and developing clean energy. The construction of new transmission lines with higher voltage capacities will be essential to disseminate this clean energy throughout the country. There are more than ten billion more to electrify public transport and build more electric car chargers. Add another $ 21 billion to the count for cleaning up soil and groundwater in old mines and gas fields.

$ 256 billion … for the deficit

All of those “once in a generation” billions have to come from somewhere. Lawmakers say the package will come from unused economic relief funds, taxes on cryptocurrency and delaying a healthcare reimbursement package, among other smaller sources.

Last week, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that this spending bill would add $ 256 billion to the U.S. deficit over the next 10 years – though it did not factor in revenues that could come from these infrastructure projects or that pandemic funds could come back. .

What happens next?

Analysis box by Anthony Zurcher, North America reporter

Analysis box by Anthony Zurcher, North America reporter

The bipartisan $ 1 billion infrastructure bill is nearing its final destination, though it’s still not clear whether it’s Joe Biden’s office or the trash of dumped legislation.

Its fate could be decided by the Liberal Democrats in the House of Representatives, who threaten to defeat the bill if they do not get guarantees from the centrists to support their much larger social spending program which is still ongoing. negotiation.

Thursday could be reckoning day, when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi scheduled a vote on infrastructure. If Democrats can agree on a framework for the next round of laws, the Liberals could bite the bullet and stand in line. If it appears they disagree, however, Pelosi could delay the vote – a move that will surely anger the centrists.

It’s a tricky dance with all of Biden’s remaining legislative agenda for the year at stake. The delay may be at least a temporary response, but kicking the box risks further alienating Democrats in the country. whole party, who are already starting to point fingers and assign blame.

At some point, time will run out – and if Democrats find themselves empty-handed, voters could make them pay in next year’s midterm election.

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