While President Joe Biden travels across the country to promote his multi-trillion-dollar infrastructure plan and the bipartisan deal negotiated in the Senate, the U.S. House voted to approve a $715 billion five-year transportation bill focused on improving and repairing roads, bridges, transit and rail, and ensuring clean drinking water.
The vote was 221-201 with only two Republicans voting with Democrats in favor.
House Democrats say the INVEST in America Act will deliver on key priorities in Biden’s American Jobs Plan, and they hope the legislative text can be used to negotiate with the Senate and the White House to determine what specific policy proposals can be included as part of the recently announced infrastructure framework deal reached by senators and the Biden administration last month.
The framework deal outlines top-line spending numbers for a variety of priorities similar to those included in the INVEST in America Act.
“The Senate bipartisan deal is an outline, and it has good numbers,” said Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon, the lead sponsor of the INVEST Act and chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
DeFazio said the Senate proposal was “within shouting distance” of his bill, adding he was confident the House and Senate can work out the spending levels.
“Substantial amounts of the policy in our bill should be negotiated by the White House, and the Senate and the House to be part of that bipartisan proposal,” DeFazio said. “The Senate bipartisan deal is an outline. There’s no policy attached to their proposal. You have to have policy to do a bill.”
WHAT THE BILL INCLUDES
The INVEST in America Act authorizes:
- $343 billion for roads, bridges and safety measures.
- $109 billion for transit.
- $95 billion for passenger and freight rail.
- $117 billion for drinking water infrastructure resources.
- $51 billion for wastewater infrastructure, according to a fact sheet on the bill.
TIME TO BUILD
“For too long, lip service has been paid to infrastructure without making the investments we need,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said. “It’s time to build. The bipartisan infrastructure framework secured by President Joe Biden would be the single greatest infrastructure investment in history and has the potential to create good union jobs and middle-class opportunity. Investing in roads, bridges, transit, rail, climate change mitigation, electric vehicles, clean drinking water, high-speed internet, resilient transmission lines and more would make America a stronger, more competitive nation.”
Trumka warned, however, that the final legislation must ensure that infrastructure jobs have full Labor protections, and that nothing in the bill can be used as a back door to privatization.
“We urge Congress and the administration to continue working together to achieve a long-overdue infrastructure breakthrough,” Trumka said. “And that must be followed quickly by the rest of the multitrillion dollar Build Back Better agenda, including the American Families Plan and the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act.”
STRONG PREVAILING WAGE COVERAGE
“Today, the House took an important step towards enacting a bold, broad-based, bipartisan infrastructure package with the passage of the INVEST in America Act,” Sean McGarvey, president, North American Building Trades Unions, AFL-CIO, said in an email. “As has been proven time and time again, broad and robust infrastructure investment is the core foundation for sustained economic growth. The over $700 billion in funding provided for roads, bridges, transit, rail, clean water and drinking water systems is the type of scale we desperately need to upgrade our nation’s outdated and crumbling infrastructure.”
In addition to specifying initial spending priorities, McGarvey said, “The INVEST in America Act ensures strong prevailing wage coverage for building trades members and will provide training opportunities for those seeking a career in construction – especially women, communities of color, military veterans, and the formerly incarcerated – through our gold-standard Registered Apprenticeship system.
“Our members stand ready to do their part to effectively, and inclusively, Build Back Better,” McGarvey said. “We applaud Chairman DeFazio and Chairman Pallone for their leadership in getting this key piece of legislation passed, and look forward to continuing to work with members of the House and Senate to deliver a bill to President Biden’s desk as soon as possible.”
A SIGNIFICANT STEP FORWARD
Greg Regan, president of the Transportation Trades Department (TTD), AFL-CIO, called the infrastructure framework reached by senators and the Biden administration “a significant step forward” in meeting the long-neglected needs of our nation’s infrastructure and the working families who rely on it.
“While much work remains to finalize this agreement, TTD looks forward to working with the Biden administration and Congress to ensure that every dollar spent under this agreed-upon framework is paired with the strongest Labor protections possible that guarantee good jobs and strong worker protections for the Americans who design, build, operate, and maintain our infrastructure,” Regan said.
Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) International President John Costa called the initial infrastructure framework reached by Biden and the senators “a considerable step forward” in meeting the nation’s infrastructure needs. “While more must be done to pass a robust agreement, the ATU looks forward to working with the Biden administration and Congress to achieve our collective goal of repairing and modernizing our nation’s crumbling infrastructure for the many people who rely on it, including our hardworking ATU members,” Costa said.
(Information from the AFL-CIO, NABATU, TTD, ATU, CNN, CBS News and National Public Radio.)