The trillion-dollar infrastructure package President Joe Biden made a major part of his campaign is finally moving forward after a key vote in the U.S. Senate.
Democratic and Republican senators reached agreement on a new trillion-dollar infrastructure bill that includes substantial investments in not only new roads, bridges and public transit but also rapidly expanding networks required for charging electric vehicles as well as the wider use of electric transit buses and school buses.
During a call with analysts, Ford Motor Co. CEO Jim Farley said infrastructure is vital to increasing the use of battery electric vehicles. “So much of this will depend on government and infrastructure build out,” he said.
A bipartisan effort
Seventeen Republican senators voted with all 50 Democrats on Wednesday to advance a bipartisan infrastructure deal, in a win for Biden and the bipartisan group of negotiators, according to The Hill, a website focused on news about the federal government.
The Hill said the vote — the first of several steps expected before the Senate decides whether or not to ultimately pass the bill — comes one week after all Republicans blocked a similar move arguing that Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-New York) was rushing the process as senators tried to finalize their agreement.
At least 10 Republicans were needed to advance the bill. In the end, Democrats were able to net 17 GOP votes, The Hill observed.
Biden hails the deal
This deal makes key investments to put people to work all across the country, the White House proclaimed.
“It will put Americans to work in good-paying, union jobs repairing our roads and bridges,” the president said, noting it will cover a wide range of infrastructure projects designed to improve life in “low-income communities and communities of color.”
The deal also puts money behind the installation of a national network of EV charging stations, Biden saying the “bipartisan deal is the most important investment in public transit in American history and the most important investment in rail since the creation of Amtrak 50 years ago. It will deliver high speed internet to every American.”
He also reiterated his pledge to do this “without raising taxes by one cent on people making less than $400,000 a year — no gas tax increase and no fee on electric vehicles.”
Bill needs more work before passage
“It’s about two things jobs and a lot of good-paying jobs and national security,” Senator John Tester (D-Montana) said in an interview on MSNBC. “This is the largest expenditure on infrastructure in the nation’s history.”
While the parties have reached a handshake agreement, the bill still needs to be written, which had not been written by Wednesday evening, according to the Washington Post.
The language in the bill will be critical to its final passage. The lack of an actual written bill was cause for concern for some Senate Republicans. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said in a speech on the chamber floor he could not vote to forge ahead Wednesday because the bill is “not ready,” The Post reported.
Biden pushing to “Buy American”
The infrastructure deal came together as Biden traveled to a Mack Truck plant in Pennsylvania’s Leigh Valley to tout his administration’s “Buy American” policies.
“In recent years, ‘Buy American’ has become a hollow process,” Biden noted during his visit. “My administration is going to make ‘Buy American’ a reality. I’m putting the weight of the federal government behind that commitment.”
The proposed rule would raise the threshold for products to qualify for purchase by the federal government. Currently, 55% of the value of the products’ component parts must be manufactured in the U.S. to qualify. The new rule would raise the threshold to 60 percent.
Martin Weissburg, president of Mack Trucks, emphasized to Biden the importance of robust funding investments in infrastructure for zero-emissions vehicles.
As Biden toured the Mack plant, learning about the company’s assembly process, its supply chain, and Mack’s commitment to battery-electric vehicles. Biden was able to see firsthand the Mack LR Electric battery-electric refuse vehicle, Mack’s first fully electric Class 8 truck.
Ray Curry, president of the United Auto Workers, noted, “The President has made good on his promise to greatly strengthen Buy American standards and focus on using taxpayer money on American-made goods, while funding good paying union scale jobs and benefits for American workers.”