President Biden is planning several stops across the country to promote the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that finally received congressional approval last week, giving the embattled leader a much-needed victory in the midst of falling poll numbers.
“Finally!” said a jubilant President Biden Saturday morning as he prepared to deliver remarks on the accomplishment.
The infrastructure measure was originally negotiated last spring by a bipartisan group of Senators, helping it gain relatively easy passage in the Senate this summer. But a vote in the House was repeatedly held up by progressive Democrats who made their support conditional on the approval of what was initially pitched as a $3.5 trillion social safety net and climate package.
President Biden spent an extraordinary amount of time the last few months meeting with leaders of the moderate and liberal wings of the House and Senate Democratic conferences, working on minutiae of the so-called ‘human infrastructure’ package and trying to reach a framework that both factions could support. Declarations of progress on compromise were frequently made, the price tag lowered to $1.85 trillion, and yet there was apparently not enough satisfaction within the liberal camp to green light passage of the infrastructure bill.
But a dreadfully poor showing by Democrats in last week’s off-year election races sent a clear message that the American public was fed up with the infighting and, despite no clear path forward on the still-evolving Build Back Better bill, the House took up and passed the Infrastructure and Jobs Act Friday night 228-206.
Six progressive Democrats voted against it, but 13 Republicans voted in favor. No Oklahoma members voted for it.
Biden called it “a once-in-a-generation investment that’s going to create millions of jobs.”
The $1.2 trillion dollar plan will invest $110 billion in road and bridge construction over the next five years, $55 billion to make sure all Americans have clean drinking water, $65 billion for broadband internet access, $42 billion to upgrade ports and airports, and $66 billion to expand passenger rail, including Oklahoma’s Heartland Flyer. They are things members of the Oklahoma delegation say they would generally support, but not in a bill that came together the way this one did.
“It’s abominable,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK4) on the House floor prior to the vote. “It’s unpaid for -- the CBO (Congressional Budget Office) has told us it’s [going to cost] $400 billion.”
Congresswoman Stephanie Bice says, not is it not paid for, the Republicans in the House had no input.
“There’s been no conversation with the Republican side on trying to come to a bipartisan agreement in the House,” said Bice (R-OK5) in a recent interview.
But perhaps the biggest reason Oklahoma members – and most Republicans – refused to vote for the bill to pay for roads in bridges is that they say it is linked to the bill that would expand the social safety net and climate programs.
“As important as infrastructure is to connecting our communities and economies to one another," said Congressman Frank Lucas (R-OK3) in a statement, "unfortunately, this unvetted bill remained politically coupled with the Majority’s partisan trillion-plus dollar spending and tax bill.”
It’s not fully clear when the President will formally sign the bill into law. Most likely it will be next week when members are back in Washington and they can have a ceremony at the White House.