Biden says final passage of $1 trillion infrastructure plan is a big step forward
Updated November 6, 2021 at 11:02 AM ET
After months of tense negotiations, the House of Representatives has passed a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, 228-206, fulfilling a major priority for President Biden's domestic agenda and cementing a political victory for Democrats.
Biden said Saturday that the vote was a "monumental" step forward and that he would sign the bill into law next week.
"We did something that's long overdue, that has long been talked about in Washington, but never actually been done," he said, joking that infrastructure week was finally accomplished.
The measure includes significant investments in roads, bridges, railways and broadband internet.
It passed late Friday night largely along party lines, with 13 Republicans joining 215 Democrats in support of the legislation.
But the bill also saw six progressive Democrats vote against it because a larger social spending measure failed to secure enough support for a floor vote on Friday.
Biden also addressed his Build Back Better agenda and predicted that the social spending bill, which has also been heavily debated among lawmakers, will pass through the House and the Senate
But he acknowledged that the "likely outcome" is for the Senate to pass the bill solely with Democratic votes and that getting the entire party on board will be "a process."
The late-night vote on infrastructure followed an agreement between factions of the Democratic Party, as moderate members issued further assurances that they would pass the larger spending bill when it comes up for a vote.
"We commit to voting for the Build Back Better Act, in its current form ... as expeditiously as we receive fiscal information from the Congressional Budget Office — but in no event later than the week of November 15th — consistent with the toplines for revenues and investments" in the White House framework, a key group of five moderates — Reps. Ed Case, D-Hawaii, Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y., and Kurt Schrader, D-Ore. — said in statement.
The group added that if the CBO score is inconsistent with the White House framework, they "remain committed to working to resolve any discrepancies in order to pass Build Back Better legislation."
A short time later, the chair of the progressive caucus, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., issued a statement saying her caucus had reached agreement with "our colleagues ... to advance both pieces of President Biden's legislative agenda."
Biden was involved in the final negotiations, issuing a statement Friday night urging all House Democrats to back final passage of the infrastructure bill. He added he was "confident that during the week of November 15, the House will pass the Build Back Better Act."
The infrastructure bill, which passed the Senate in August with strong bipartisan support, includes nearly $550 billion in new spending above what Congress was already planning to allocate for infrastructure over the next eight years.
The plan will be financed in a number of ways, including repurposing unspent emergency relief funds from the COVID-19 pandemic and strengthening tax enforcement for cryptocurrencies. The CBO has predicted the bill will add about $256 billion to projected deficits over the next 10 years.
Pathway to passage
The bill's journey from the Senate to Biden's desk has been a long and tumultuous one.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., intended to bring it and the larger bill to the floor for a vote on Friday. But her plans collapsed after a handful of moderate members insisted the spending package receive a score from the CBO.
"Some members want more clarification or validation of numbers that have been put forth ... that it is fully paid for, and we honor that request," Pelosi told reporters late Friday afternoon.
Progressive House Democrats had insisted for months that any vote on the infrastructure bill be tied to the broader social spending package, for fear that some moderate Democrats would delay or even withhold support for the larger package if the infrastructure bill passed first.
But Friday evening, once the group of moderates issued a statement expressing a commitment to eventually vote for the social spending bill, Jayapal announced that her caucus would vote on the infrastructure bill, essentially ceding the group's initial requirement of only voting on the two bills in tandem.
Some Democratic lawmakers have criticized the party for not being able to pass the bill ahead of Tuesday's gubernatorial election in Virginia, where Democrats ultimately sustained a major loss.
Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., told reporters after the election that Democrats "blew the timing" by not passing the legislation sooner, which would have given Democrats a legislative victory to campaign on.
The Build Back Better spending package originally had a price tag of $3.5 trillion. Democrats chose to use a process called budget reconciliation to pass the package in the Senate without any Republican support. Given the extremely narrow margin in the chamber, every senator who caucuses with Democrats has to be on board in order for the bill to survive.
That proved difficult, with moderate Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona expressing concerns over the size and scope of the package.
Manchin said he could only support a package at $1.5 trillion, prompting Democrats to whittle down the multitrillion-dollar package to about $1.75 trillion.
The slimmed-down spending package includes universal pre-K for all 3- and 4-year-olds, investments in affordable housing, premium reductions under the Affordable Care Act, major investments aimed at addressing climate change and an additional year of the expanded child tax credit.
Here's a closer look at what's in the infrastructure bill that now heads to Biden's desk.
NPR's Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report.
Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.