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US senators finalize bipartisan infrastructure bill

CHARLESTON, W.Va. ā€” After negotiations on a bipartisan infrastructure proposal continued through the weekend, U.S. senators on Sunday unveiled legislative text for the package.

The 2,702-page Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act includes $550 billion in new spending on projects including road replacement, electricity grid resiliency efforts, broadband deployment, and water line work.

The Senate voted last Wednesday to advance the bipartisan infrastructure plan as lawmakers finalized details. Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., were among the 67 senators who supported the motion.

“So many people have given up on the Senate. They’ve given up on Congress. They’ve given up on our ability to be able to do the big things,” Manchin said Sunday on the Senate floor. “This is big. This is a big deal.”

Manchin is a cosponsor of the legislation and part of the bipartisan group that worked with the White House on a deal.

“It’s something that every administration for the past four to five administrations knew had to be done, and they didn’t because this is hard. It’s not easy,” he said. “They call us a deliberative body. This is truly what deliberation is about: to come to an agreement. And it takes an awful lot of time, a lot of patience, a lot of effort.”

The $550 billion in new spending includes $110 billion for road and bridge projects, $73 billion for electricity improvements and clean technology, $65 billion for improving broadband, and $55 billion for water infrastructure. The legislation allocates funding for the Appalachian Development Highway System, a network of corridors connecting Appalachian communities to interstates.

The Appalachian Regional Commission ā€” a federal agency focused on regional development from Mississippi to New York ā€” is slated to receive $1 billion. Gayle Manchin, the wife of the senator, serves as the body’s co-chairman.

The proposal does not include tax increases. Senators have opted to fund the proposal through repurposing unused coronavirus relief funds and unemployment insurance money, as well as government auctions and delaying the Medicare Part D rebate rule. Legislators have also noted economic growth related to projects.

Manchin touted the bill as an opportunity to continue economic growth after the coronavirus pandemic.

“Great jobs are going to be available for people who want good-paying, high-skilled jobs with benefits. This is the bill that will do it for them, and this will keep us going for five to 10 years,” he said.

Legislators have cited congressional committee efforts as the foundation for the bipartisan package. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved a $35 billion water infrastructure proposal in April and a $311 billion surface transportation measure in May. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in July approved a nearly $100 billion proposal covering energy infrastructure projects and public land matters.

Capito is the ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and Manchin serves as chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

“The two bills that we passed unanimously are encompassed in this bill in their entirety, so Iā€™m very, very familiar with what the final product is,” Capito told reporters last Thursday. “I supported it yesterday, and I plan to support it as we move through the next several days as we get amendments and other voices weighing in.”

Democratic leaders are also looking to pass a resolution on a $3.5 trillion proposal after the vote on the bipartisan package. The second measure will include funding for issues including child care and Medicare expansion, in addition to tax changes for wealthy Americans and corporations. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is pushing the Senate to pass the bipartisan bill and blueprint before the August recess.





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