CHARLESTON, W.Va. — After hours of debate among Democrats, the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday passed the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill funding road, utility and broadband projects as well as other infrastructure efforts.
The chamber approved the measure 228-206; West Virginia Rep. David McKinley was one of 13 Republicans who backed the legislation.
The bill now awaits President Joe Biden’s signature.
The bill dedicates $550 billion in new spending over five years on physical infrastructure issues, including roads and bridges, internet access, water and electricity systems, and resiliency needs. According to the White House, West Virginia would receive $3 billion for federal-aid highway apportioned programs, $506 million for bridge projects, at least $100 million for expanding internet access to thousands of people, and $487 million for improving the state’s water infrastructure.
Lawmakers have pushed the bill by citing delayed action in addressing the nation’s infrastructure needs. The American Society of Civil Engineers gave the United States a C- and West Virginia a D in its 2021 infrastructure report card. The organization noted West Virginia’s outdated infrastructure “has deteriorated, while new construction, replacement, rehabilitation and repair efforts have not kept pace with the needs.”
“Tonight, instead of playing politics, I put America and West Virginia first,” McKinley said following the vote.
“America’s infrastructure has been in dire need of modernization and this bipartisan infrastructure bill is what community leaders from one panhandle to the other have expressed that West Virginia needs to restore our aging infrastructure.”
The vote was delayed to late Friday as Democrats debated how to move forward with the infrastructure legislation and Biden’s $1.85 trillion domestic policy proposal. Progressive members wanted to pass the measures back-to-back as part of the president’s “build back better” agenda, while moderates requested a cost estimate on the second bill from the Congressional Budget Office. Democratic legislators reached a deal before the infrastructure vote, in which lawmakers agreed to vote on the second bill by the week of Nov. 15.
The domestic policy bill would address climate change, prescription drug costs, health care and child care. The framework also includes changes to existing tax laws that would impact wealthy Americans and corporations. The White House has stated people who make less than $400,000 would not see a tax increase under this legislation.
McKinley opposes the second measure, as does Reps. Alex Mooney, R-W.Va., and Carol Miller, R-W.Va. Mooney and Miller voted against the infrastructure bill.
“West Virginia needs targeted investment in our roads, bridges, waterways, and broadband. Projects like King Coal Highway, Corridor H, and the Bluestone Dam will help meet our state’s transportation and growth needs — and I look forward to supporting those projects in a different bill,” Miller said.
“Because [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi has now linked this bill to the trillion-dollar socialist spending spree, I voted ‘no.’ Congress must invest in our nation, not saddle our children and grandchildren with taxes and debt.”
Because of the West Virginia Legislature’s redistricting efforts, McKinley and Mooney will face off in next year’s Republican primary in a new 2nd Congressional District; West Virginia lost one of its districts because of population changes since the 2010 census.
The new 2nd District includes McKinley’s current district and the northern half of West Virginia.
“I can’t imagine I would vote for that bill. That’s even more progressive ideas in there,” Mooney said on Friday’s “MetroNews Talkline” about the domestic policy measure. “They’re trying to tie them together loosely. I know they come up to separate votes in this goofy system that they’re doing it.”
Regarding the infrastructure bill, Mooney argued the House should not have considered “legislation of this magnitude” so late.
“The price tag far exceeds anything reasonable and further adds to our country’s ballooning debt,” he tweeted. “I support better roads, bridges, waterways, and broadband internet for the great State of West Virginia. I do not support attaching billions of dollars of wasteful spending and tax hikes as part of the deal.”
The Senate approved the legislation 69-30 in August; Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., assisted with the amendment process and led early negotiations between the White House and Republicans, and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., was part of a bipartisan group that reached an agreement with the Biden administration on the legislation.
“The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is historic, bipartisan legislation that will dramatically upgrade America’s core infrastructure. This bill will rebuild crumbling roads and bridges; address aging water and wastewater systems; support our airports and ports; and connect rural America with broadband infrastructure and finally close the digital divide,” Capito said Friday.
Capito, the ranking member of the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee, additionally celebrated the committee’s work on legislation covering surface transportation and water systems. She described the proposals as “the foundation of this package.”
“Seeing the final bipartisan product head to his desk today is exciting. This bill is further proof that this bipartisan process lead to better, lasting policy that will benefit the American people for generations to come,” she added.
Manchin — who remains under pressure to support the domestic policy proposal — pressed the House on Monday to approve the infrastructure legislation, saying “holding that bill hostage” would not get him to back the $1.85 trillion measure.
“Our bipartisan bill will help West Virginia, and every other state in the nation, address the infrastructure needs of our nation while creating good-paying jobs and growing the economy. This type of investment hasn’t been made in three decades,” Manchin said Friday.
“I am pleased the House of Representatives passed this bipartisan legislation, and look forward to President Biden signing it into law. I have always said that the best politics is good government, and I’m incredibly proud of my bipartisan colleagues for their tireless efforts to get this across the finish line and deliver on this major investment in the needs of America.”
Capito, who opposes the domestic policy proposal, also pressed the House to support the infrastructure bill. She additionally criticized House Democrats following the vote for Friday’s prolonged session.
“This reckless tax-and-spending spree will completely transform our country, inserting government into every aspect of American life. Pressured by the looming reality of losing their majority, Democrats have crammed every liberal policy wish into one fast-tracked bill, leading to disarray among their own caucus,” she said.
“This bill is so radical, unaffordable, and overreaching that the House Democratic majority couldn’t even pass it today. If and when it comes to the Senate, I’ll be fighting tooth and nail to remove the most egregious provisions that would devastate West Virginia’s economy and doing all I can to defeat the bill.”
The House early Saturday approved a rule for considering the second measure. The chamber voted 221-213 on the resolution; Democrats united in support, and Republicans unanimously opposed.