House lawmakers late Friday adopted a roughly $1.2 trillion measure to improve the country’s roads, bridges, pipes, ports and Internet connections, overcoming their own internecine divides to secure a long-sought burst in federal investment and deliver President Biden a major legislative win.
The bipartisan 228-to-206 vote marked the final milestone for the first of two pieces in the president’s sprawling economic agenda.
The outcome sends to Biden’s desk an initiative that promises to deliver its benefits to all 50 states, a manifestation of his 2020 campaign pledge to rejuvenate the economy in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic and “build back better.”
Thirteen House Republicans delivered the decisive votes to rescue Biden’s agenda — an agenda endangered by those in his own party.
In the end it wasn’t really those progressives who provided the key votes, but rather the 13 Republicans.
The final vote count was 228 to 206, meaning if no Republicans had voted for the bill, it wouldn’t have passed.
Some Republicans are predictably furious — with undersold questions about House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) future leadership of the party potentially in the offing.
“I can’t believe Republicans just gave the Democrats their socialism bill,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said.
Others threatened before the vote to target or launch primaries against the defectors in their midst.
“Vote for this infrastructure bill and I will primary the hell out of you,” Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) said shortly before the vote.
Friday’s GOP defections were even more significant than during the last Trump impeachment, when 10 Republicans voted to impeach the president — a historically high number.
And the fact that on Friday they provided the votes necessary for passage makes this even more fraught.
The infrastructure proposal, nearly half of which constitutes new spending, marks one of the most significant investments in the country’s infrastructure since Congress responded to the Great Recession.
It seeds new funding in the hopes of delivering urgently needed fixes to the country’s outdated inner-workings while setting the U.S. on track to tackle more intractable future challenges, including the fast-worsening climate crisis.
The bill includes more than $110 billion to replace and repair roads, bridges and highways, and $66 billion to boost rail, making it the most substantial such investment in the country’s passenger and commercial network since the creation of Amtrak about half a century ago.
Lawmakers provided $55 billion to improve the nation’s water supply and replace lead pipes, $60 billion to modernize the power grid and billions in additional sums to expand speedy Internet access nationwide.
Many of the investments aim to promote green energy and combat some of the country’s worst sources of pollution. At Biden’s behest, for example, lawmakers approved $7.5 billion to build out a national network of vehicle charging stations.
Reflecting the deadly, costly consequences of global warming, the package also allocates another roughly $50 billion to respond to emergencies including droughts, wildfires and major storms.
The bill now heads to the White House for Biden’s signature more than two months after Senate lawmakers approved it on a rare and overwhelming 69-to-30 bipartisan vote.