WASHINGTON – (AP) – President Joe Biden on Saturday hailed Congress’ passage of its $ 1 trillion infrastructure package as a “monumental step forward for the nation” after falling Democrats decided a month-long stalemate among their ranks over the To seal the agreement.
“Finally infrastructure week,” a beaming Biden told reporters. “I’m so happy to be able to say that: Infrastructure Week.”
The House of Representatives passed measure 228-206 late Friday, which led to long cheers from the eased democratic side of the chamber. Thirteen Republicans, mostly moderate, supported the bill, while six of the left-most Democrats opposed it.
The passage of the bill promising legions of jobs and improving broadband, water supplies and other public works sends him to the desk of a president whose approval ratings have plummeted and whose nervous party got a cold shoulder from voters last week Elections outside of the year.
Democratic candidates for governor were defeated in Virginia and squeaked through in New Jersey, two blue-leaning states. These setbacks made party leaders – and moderates and liberals alike – impatient to legislate effectively and demonstrate that they know how to govern. Democrats cannot afford to get into disarray a year before the midterm elections that could put Republicans in control of Congress.
Voters “want us to deliver,” Biden said, and Friday’s vote “proved we can”.
“We delivered on a large item,” he added.
The infrastructure package is a historic investment in every respect, which Biden compares in breadth to building the interstate highway system in the last century or the transcontinental railroad in the previous century. He called it a “blue collar blueprint for America’s reconstruction”.
His reference to Infrastructure Week was a blow to his predecessor Donald Trump, whose White House declared several times that “Infrastructure Week” had come just so that nothing would happen.
Just clearing the infrastructure for final approval by Congress was like an adrenaline rush for the Democrats. Despite the victory, however, the Democrats suffered a setback when they postponed a vote on a second, even larger, bill until later this month.
That $ 1.85 trillion 10-year measure in support of health, family and climate protection programs was diverted after moderates demanded a cost estimate for the measure from the impartial Congressional Budget Office. The postponement dashed hopes that the day with both bills passed would result in a double victory for Biden.
But in an evening breakthrough brokered by the leaders of Biden and the House of Representatives, five moderates agreed to endorse this bill if the Budget Bureau’s estimates match the preliminary figures presented by White House and Congress tax analysts. The agreement, in which the legislature promised to vote on the social and environmental law by November 15, was an important step towards a vote in the House of Representatives that could ultimately be submitted to the Senate.
Excited with the bill passed, Biden hung out with reporters for over half an hour Saturday morning, joking that his chances of getting the bill off had been written off multiple times just so he could save them. He said he would wait with the signing ceremony until lawmakers – Democrats and Republicans who voted in favor – return to Washington after a week-long hiatus.
The president acknowledged the uncertainty surrounding his larger social and environmental spending package and said “time will tell” whether he can keep popular provisions such as universal family vacation leave in the final version. He wouldn’t say whether he has private assurances from moderate Democrats in the House and Senate that the nearly $ 2 trillion bill will be passed, but said he was “confident” of getting the vote.
Biden predicted that if we get shovels in the ground, Americans will “likely feel the effects of the infrastructure bill within the next two to three months.”
He added that over the next week he will visit some ports that would benefit from the legislation as his government desperately tries to alleviate supply chain disruptions that raise consumer prices before the holidays.
Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg said there was some catching up to do to start public works. He told CNN that he already had $ 10 billion worth of applications for a specific program that was only $ 1 billion. “This is not just a short-term stimulus package.”
Biden said the investment would be viewed as “when America decided to win the 21st century competition” with an emerging China 50 years from now.
President and first lady Jill Biden delayed their plans to travel to their home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, Friday night. Instead, Biden spoke to House Representatives, moderates and progressives.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., Chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said Biden even called her mother in India, although it was unclear why.
“It wasn’t to bribe me – everything was done now,” Jayapal told reporters. The lawmaker said her mother told her she “just screamed like a little girl”.
In a statement, five moderates said that if the budget estimates on the Social and Environmental Law raise problems, “we will continue to work to resolve any discrepancies” to get it passed.
In return, the Liberals agreed to support the infrastructure measure they had held hostage for months to get the moderates to back the larger bill.
The day marked a rare détente between the moderate and liberal wings of the Democrats that party leaders hope will continue. The rival factions had for weeks accused each other of endangering Biden and the party’s success by exaggerating their hands. But on Friday night, Jayapal suggested that they would work together to move forward.
The Democrats have been struggling for months to take advantage of their control over the White House and Congress by advancing their priorities. That was difficult, in part because of tight Democratic majorities and bitter internal divisions.
“Welcome to my world,” House spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi told reporters. “We’re not a lockstep party.”
Democrats’ Day got tumultuous early on after half a dozen moderates asked the Department of Housekeeping to estimate the cost of the extensive package of health, education, family and climate change initiatives before voting in favor.
Party leaders said it would take days or more. But with the delayed vote on Friday and lawmakers leaving for a week off, those budget estimates should be ready by the vote.
The Senate approved the infrastructure measure in August with bipartisan support.
As for the social and environmental package, the House of Representatives passage would send it to the Senate where it is exposed to certain changes and more democratic dramas. This is mainly due to the demands of Sens. Joe Manchin from West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona to contain the costs of the measure.
The Moderate has forced the heads of state and government to reduce the roughly 2,100-page measure to about half its original volume of 3.5 trillion US dollars. Republicans consider it too expensive and bad for the economy.
The package would help large numbers of Americans pay for health care, child-rearing, and home care for the elderly. There is $ 555 billion in tax breaks for clean energy and electric vehicles. The Democrats recently added provisions restoring a new paid family vacation program and work permits for millions of immigrants.
Much of the cost of the package would be covered by higher taxes for wealthier Americans and large corporations.
Associate press writers Cal Woodward, Lisa Mascaro, Farnoush Amiri, Kevin Freking, Aamer Madhani, Alexandra Jaffe, Mary Clare Jalonick and Brian Slodysko contributed to this report.
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