US Senate continues working on infrastructure bill with weekend vote expected

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The U.S. Senate on Thursday continued working on the bipartisan infrastructure measure as lawmakers considered amendments to the lengthy bill.

Senators introduced the initial 2,702-page bill on Sunday, which dedicates $550 billion in new spending over five years towards projects on roads and bridges, broadband, water infrastructure, electricity and other physical infrastructure issues. Lawmakers previously agreed to move forward with the proposal amid discussions on details; seventeen Republicans joined Democrats in the July 28 vote.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is part of the bipartisan group that reached an agreement with the White House. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., is a floor manager for the legislation and is responsible for moving the measure through the amendment process. She led early negotiations between Senate Republicans and the Biden administration, but the sides did not reach a deal.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said late Thursday the Senate will return on Saturday to consider ending debate, and the chamber will convene that morning at 11 o’clock.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act dedicates $110 billion in road and bridge projects, $65 billion for improving broadband, $55 billion for water infrastructure replacement and resiliency, and $65 billion for electricity improvements and technologies.

Legislators have pushed the legislation as following up on promises by past administrations and addressing poor infrastructure nationwide. The American Society of Civil Engineers gave West Virginia a “D” in the organization’s recent report card, noting multiple issues with the state’s infrastructure such as deteriorated roads and water systems in poor condition.

According to Manchin’s office and the White House, West Virginia will receive $3 billion for federal-aid highway apportioned programs and $506 million for bridge replacement and repair. Both offices noted the average West Virginia drive pays $726 a year in costs because of driving on roads needing repair.

The state could also seek funding through the $12.5 billion Bridge Investment Program and nearly $16 billion for major projects.

U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va. (File)

The state will get $46 million for expanding an electric vehicle charging network. The inclusion of the funding comes as the Biden administration focuses on the electric vehicle market; President Joe Biden on Thursday signed an executive order setting a goal that 50% of all new passenger cars and light trucks sold in 2030 will be zero-emission vehicles.

The bill also dedicates at least $100 million for providing broadband coverage in West Virginia. Manchin’s office and the White House noted 19% of West Virginian households do not have internet services.

“We know we have fallen short of the digital divide,” Capito told reporters Thursday. “This, I think, should bring us to the point where we can say we have gotten to the last house, to the last business.”

Capito launched the Capito Connect initiative early in her first Senate term, which focuses on increasing internet access through public-private partnerships.

The legislation notes multiple spending sources, including repurposing unused coronavirus relief dollars and unused enhanced unemployment payments, government auctions, and returns on investments.

The Congressional Budget Office released an analysis of the legislation, noting the measure would add $256 billion to the projected deficit over 10 years. Ahead of the CBO releasing its report, Capito said the legislation is important regardless of its effect on the deficit because of possible economic growth and job opportunities.

“I am going to move forward and vote for this bill. I know it very, very well. I know how important it is to our state, to the development of our infrastructure,” she said.

After the Senate completes work on the bipartisan infrastructure bill, lawmakers will begin working on a $3.5 trillion proposal on human infrastructure issues, including child care, education and Medicare expansion. Schumer wants the Senate to pass the bipartisan package and a budget blueprint for the second bill before senators leave the nation’s capital for the August recess, although the split chamber will have to approve the resolution through the reconciliation process as the proposal lacks Republican support.

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