WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden and top White House officials hailed a bipartisan, preliminary infrastructure agreement as proof that Washington – and even American democracy itself – could deliver tangible results despite huge partisan divides.
But securing the deal – which delivers a fraction of the investment he initially proposed – required the Democratic president to make big sacrifices. And its passage through Congress was thrown in doubt later Thursday, after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell criticized a two-track plan to pass a second spending bill later.
The bipartisan framework is valued at $1.2 trillion over eight years, $579 billion of which is new spending.
Biden insists he will continue to fight for his priorities – including what he calls “human infrastructure” and more funding for environmental programs – in the separate Democrats-only bill, and insisted he would not sign one package without the other.
Here’s how the compromise infrastructure bill agreed by the senators Thursday compares to what was initially proposed:
The compromise hammered out by the “G-21” group of Republican and Democratic senators includes $312 billion in new funding for roads, bridges, public transit and electric vehicle infrastructure, roughly half the $621 billion that Biden sought in the American Jobs Plan proposal he unveiled in March.
One area that saw a big drop from the original plan was public transit, now slated to see a $49-billion bump in funding compared to the $85 billion initially proposed.
Passenger and freight rail, a huge personal priority for Biden, who has logged more than one million miles on Amtrak, is slated to receive $66 billion in additional funding, down from the $80 billion earmarked in the initial proposal.
The biggest drop came for electric vehicle technology, where Biden had proposed investing $174 billion, but the new plan calls for just $15 billion after rebates were eliminated.
Biden has made increasing internet access for all Americans a top priority, especially given the huge gaps exposed during the pandemic when many low-income Americans and those in rural areas had trouble working and learning from home.
The compromise proposal calls for increased spending of $65 billion on broadband infrastructure, down from the $100 billion initially proposed by the president.
Biden had vowed to replace 100% of the nation’s lead pipes and service lines, and his aides say that will still happen, but the overall amount earmarked for environmental remediation dropped to $21 billion from $111 billion in the initial proposal.
Left on the cutting room floor are billions that Biden had hoped to invest in modernizing America’s drinking water, wastewater and stormwater systems.
Missing completely from the proposal is $400 billion in funding for Medicaid to fund home care for the elderly and disabled, and some $200 billion to create free universal ‘pre-Kindergarten’ and expand other childcare services.
Biden’s initial proposal also included $213 billion to produce, preserve and retrofit more than 2 million affordable places to live. He will have to fight to get that money included in the Democrats-only budget package.
One of the starkest differences is who will pay for it all. While Biden pledged to increase corporate income taxes to fund infrastructure, Republicans drew a line in the sand. The new deal pulls together a patchwork of increased IRS enforcement, selling off petroleum reserves, redirected funds from unused unemployment insurance benefits and municipal bonds, among other things.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal and Heather Timmons; editing by Richard Pullin)