‘We have a deal.’ Biden, bipartisan senators reach agreement on massive infrastructure plan

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‘Concrete’ projects in, others, not yet

By MARK GRUENBERG
PAI Staff Writer

BUILDING CONSENSUS: President Joe Biden and a bipartisan group of senators reached agreement last week on $953 billion in infrastructure spending. – Jacquelyn Martin/AP photo

Washington (PAI) — President Joe Biden and a bipartisan group of senators reached a deal last week on a $953 billion infrastructure plan that would achieve his top legislative priority and validate his efforts to reach across the political aisle.

The eight-year “compromise” infrastructure deal, a plan that will create thousands of union jobs, can be summed up in two simple phrases:

  • Concrete projects – Rebuilding the nation’s crumbling roads, inadequate airports, creaky mass transit, aging subways, collapsing bridges, and replacing lead-lined waterpipes and elderly buses are “in.”
  • Non-concrete projects – These, except for broadband expansion, nationwide and a multibillion-dollar start to investing in “green” construction, aren’t in — yet. Those omissions include retrofitting schools, expanding childcare and permanently implementing paid family and medical leave for all workers.

Biden reached the agreement in long talks with a bipartisan group of lawmakers. News reports indicate the negotiations almost collapsed until Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who represents a deep-red state, declared, “We gotta get this done, guys.” They did.

The pared-down plan, with $559 billion in new spending, has rare bipartisan backing and could open the door to the president’s more sweeping $4 trillion proposals later on.

The president said not everyone got what they wanted and that other White House priorities would be done separately in a congressional budget process known as reconciliation

“We’ve struck a deal,” Biden then tweeted. “A group of senators – five Democrats and five Republicans – has come together and forged an infrastructure agreement that will create millions of American jobs.”

The deal includes:

  • $312 billion for transportation construction.
  • $55 billion to replace pipes, creating jobs for utility workers.
  • $65 billion to fully wire the nation with broadband, a top cause of the Communications Workers.
  • $73 billion to modernize the electric grid to try to prevent more Texas-sized blackouts.

Childcare expansion, school retrofitting, and much of the Green New Deal were left out of the plan. All that “human infrastructure” is supposed to be rolled into a second “reconciliation” bill, enabling it to be passed on a party-line vote.

Still unanswered is how to pay for it all.

Biden has proposed a corporate tax hike and has said he won’t accept a plan that includes new taxes on anyone making less than $400,000.

Republicans opposed to Biden’s proposed corporate tax rate increase – from 21 percent to 28 percent – have looked at other ways to raise revenue, including indexing the federal gas tax to inflation.

Biden rejected that idea, viewing it as a financial burden on American drivers.

‘TRANSFORMATIONAL INVESTMENT’
The agreement is good news for construction unions.

“America’s infrastructure is hanging on by a thread. The time is now to invest in our infrastructure and, in turn, invest in the safety of our communities,” North America’s Building Trades Unions tweeted.

Terry O’Sullivan, president of the Laborers International Union (LiUNA), whose members build and resurface roads and runways, among other infrastructure, said the plan is “a bold and transformational investment in our nation’s infrastructure that will put Laborers to work and help union families build better lives.”

It will “create hundreds of thousands of good union jobs building our roads and bridges, upgrading our drinking water and power systems, and improving infrastructure resiliency,” O’Sullivan said. “The investments will bolster our economic well-being and secure our infrastructure for years.”

The “concrete” projects promise to create tens of thousands of good middle-class jobs.

Biden has promised they will be union jobs with federal Davis-Bacon prevailing wage standards and other worker protections.

‘A SIGNIFICANT STEP FORWARD’
The “infrastructure deal looks like a significant step forward in meeting the long-neglected needs of our nation’s infrastructure and the working families who rely on it,” said Greg Regan, president of the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department (TTD).

“TTD looks forward to working…to ensure every dollar spent 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.”


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