President Joe Biden marked a major legislative victory on Monday with the signing into law of a $1 trillion infrastructure reform bill that won support from a handful of Republicans in both chambers of Congress despite a contentious atmosphere on Capitol Hill.
The president held a signing ceremony for the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act at the White House, attended by hundreds including Sens Chuck Schumer, Ed Markey, Catherine Cortez Masto, Kyrsten Sinema, Chris Murphy, Jon Ossoff, Rob Portman, Shelley Moore Capito, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“I know you’re tired of the bickering in Washington...and you want us to focus on your needs,” said Mr Biden at the event, addressing the American public.
“Here in Washington, we’ve heard countless speeches and white pages from experts, but today we’re getting it done,” the president continued. “We compromised. We reached a consensus. That’s what’s necessary.”
Mr Biden thanked every lawmaker who supported the bill in attendance, as well as others including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who Mr Biden and others noted lent his support critically to the negotiation process between a bipartisan group of senators and the White House.
The bill faced weeks of delays in the House after being passed by the Senate due to insistence from many including Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Congressional Progressive Caucus that a larger social services plan, the Build Back Better plan, pass the House and Senate first. But objections to elements of that plan from conservative Democrats in the Senate led to resistance among progressives and House leadership crumbling, and the plan passed last week with a promise from some lawmakers that they would vote for the larger bill as well if the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) scored it in line with the White House’s projections.
“Our plan will create millions of jobs, and will make our country stronger, safer, and more competitive without raising taxes on Americans,” said Ms Sinema.
“How many times have we heard that bipartisanship isn’t possible anymore, or that important policy can only happen on a party line? Our legislation proves the opposite,” she continued.
Democrats who spoke at the event on Monday including Ms Pelosi and Mr Schumer pledged that the party would resolve its differences and vote to pass the Build Back Better plan in the days ahead, which Ms Pelosi added would “hopefully” happen this week.
“After this bill is signed into law, millions of more Americans will go to work in good-paying union jobs,” said Vice President Kamala Harris.
The bill is “part one of two”, Ms Harris added, stating that “Congress must pass the Build Back Better Act.”
“Let us all continue to believe in our people, believe in our country, and believe in what we can do when we work together,” said the vice president.
The president signed the bill at a desk set up on the lawn, flanked by members of both parties. Rep Don Young, a Republican from America’s northernmost state of Alaska, was heard quipping that the assembled guests “damn near froze to death” during the president’s speech in the frigid November wind.
The bill provides billions for climate resiliency initiatives as well as projects to revitalize America’s bridges, roadways, ports, and other priorities including the development of broadband connectivity around the country.
It also includes tax credits for the purchase of electric vehicles, a win for activists urging greater action on climate change but a downgrade from the other investments in green energy that supporters wanted.
Democrats now hope to pass a larger spending bill that would provide funds for expanding Medicare, fund free universal pre-k for 3- and 4-year-olds, an expanded child tax credit, and includes funding for lowering health care premiums for Americans purchasing insurance through Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) exchanges.
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