The $1.1 trillion infrastructure bill supported by President Joe Biden took its first step toward possible passage Wednesday night. All six U.S. Senators representing our region voted to open formal debate on it in their chamber.
The infrastructure package is a cornerstone of the White House’s domestic agenda, and the Senate approved this first procedural step by a 67-32 margin. All 48 Senate Democrats, 17 Republicans and two independents voted ‘yes’.
One of those two independents is Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the chair of the Senate Budget Committee. If the infrastructure bill fails, he wants to add its contents into a larger $3.5 trillion spending plan focusing on things like child care and education.
“I think it will be the most significant step forward for working families since FDR in the 1930s and the New Deal,” Sanders said.
As currently written, the infrastructure package includes $550 billion in new spending. The largest single piece of the new spending is $110 for roads and bridges. The next largest line-items are electrical infrastructure, passenger and freight train service, and broadband infrastructure. The remainder of the bill consists of previously-approved spending.
A bipartisan group of 21 U.S. Senators has been meeting since June to work on the infrastructure bill. Both of New Hampshire’s Senators — Sens. Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen — are among those lawmakers.
In a Wednesday night email, Sen. Hassan wrote in part:
“As we recover from the pandemic, this bill will help fix America’s roads, bridges, and highways while also building the infrastructure of a modern economy. This package reflects the priorities that I hear about from Granite Staters every day…”
Hassan mentioned climate change and cyber-security among those priorities.
The package would be paid for in a variety of ways, including $205 billion in unused COVID-19 relief funds. A February auction of wireless frequencies necessary for 5G cell phone service netted $67 billion, and that would be the second-largest share of the funding.
Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the Senate Majority Leader, has pointed out it would include no tax hikes on anyone making less than $400,000 per year.
“It’s time for everyone to get to yes,” he said “Senators should be on notice that the Senate may stay in session through the weekend in order to finish the bill.”