White House touts infrastructure deal as new roadblocks emerge
WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Lawmakers are preparing to take the initial steps toward passing a long-sought, bipartisan $550 billion infrastructure deal. But, some critical details remain unfinished, and politics surrounding a separate, companion bill with an additional $3.5 trillion worth of Democratic priorities could cause the agreement to fall apart.
The $550 billion package would be paid for without tax hikes, financed primarily through repurposed COVID relief funds, corporate fees, and tax enforcement according to a White House ‘Fact Sheet.’ In a one-on-one interview with Gray Television Washington News Bureau reporter Kyle Midura, U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said negotiators identified funding streams for every penny of spending.
Granholm argues the deal represents a sorely-needed, historic investment for the country’s future.
Much of President Biden’s biggest policy goals surrounding massive investments in education, health care, and fighting climate change are not in the bipartisan plan. Those elements, political non-starters with Republican lawmakers, are in a framework crafted by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). That measure would call for seven times the spending of the first bill, $3.5 trillion, primarily paid for by raising taxes on corporations and the wealthiest Americans.
Democratic leaders in the Senate aim to pass that measure on their own without any Republican support. But to do so, they cannot afford to lose a single vote within their ranks. Meanwhile, leaders in the Democratically-controlled House maintain they will not consider the bipartisan package without the complimentary partisan plan, and with a slim majority of their own, can afford to lose only a handful of votes if they hope to pass either measure.
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) told the Arizona Republic she supports the aims of the ‘social infrastructure’ plan, but cannot support the bill given its $3.5 trillion price tag. Pressed on whether that meant doom for the latest deal, Granholm said she had faith that another compromise could be found.
Along with pouring money into roads, bridges, and ports, White House spokespeople said the bill would build out high-speed internet connections to 30 million Americans who currently do not have one. Granholm said government-financing would provide the private sector the incentive to finally reach the ‘last mile.’
When it comes to the bill and its potential impacts on her department, Granholm said the $73 billion planned for renewable energy transmission and grid resilience would pay substantial dividends. How the money will be spent is largely finalized, but determining which parts of the country and projects benefit would have to wait until the bill becomes law.
While many might assume investments in a more resilient power grid would be bound for Texas, the secretary said it’s unclear whether the Longhorn State will be eligible for any of those dollars because its power infrastructure does not fall under federal regulation.
That portion of the plan would also set aside funds for the development of new nuclear facilities. Only two nuclear power plants have come online in the last 25 years due in large part to the country’s lack of a nuclear waste dump.
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