Nov 8, 2021

Biden gets his infrastructure bill.

Biden gets his infrastructure bill.
Joe Biden on the campaign trail

He got 13 Republican votes, too.

I’m Isaac Saul, and this is Tangle: an independent, ad-free, subscriber-supported politics newsletter that summarizes the best arguments from across the political spectrum on the news of the day — then “my take.”

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Today's read: 13 minutes.

We're explaining the infrastructure bill that passed, what is in it, why Republicans voted for it and what it means for progressives. Plus, a question about turnout in the Virginia election.

President Biden speaking in Iowa in 2020.
Photo: Gage Skidmore / Flickr

A weekend hit.

On Friday, I published a subscribers-only edition explaining the supply chain chaos in detail, the major risks it poses to the global economy and exactly why it's happening. It quickly became one of the most popular and well-received pieces I've written in the last couple of months, so I wanted to plug it again today. You can read it by clicking here.

Quick hits.

  1. Igor Danchenko, a key source for the Steele dossier, was arrested and charged with five counts of lying to the FBI. It's the third indictment in special counsel John Durham's investigation into the origins of the Trump-Russia probe. (The indictment)
  2. The U.S. economy added 531,000 non-farm jobs in October, beating predictions by more than 80,000. The lackluster September jobs report was also revised upward, and unemployment fell from 4.8% to 4.6%. (The numbers)
  3. A federal court suspended the Biden administration's January Covid-19 vaccine and testing mandates for private companies while legal challenges proceed. (The ruling)
  4. Eight people died and a dozen more were injured in a stampede during rap star Travis Scott's concert in Houston, Texas. (The tragedy)
  5. The U.S. reopened its borders for vaccinated foreigners, ending more than 18 months of restrictions. (The reopening)

Today's topic.

Infrastructure. On Friday, the House of Representatives passed a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill after months of negotiations. The bill had already passed the Senate 69-30, and will now head to President Biden's desk to become law. The bill passed by a 228-206 vote, with six progressive Democrats voting against it and 13 Republicans voting for it.

The progressives who objected — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Cori Bush (D-MO), Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) — voted against the bill because of a lack of a vote on the Build Back Better social spending bill, which Democratic leadership had promised. The two bills were supposed to be passed in near-simultaneous fashion to ensure support from progressives and moderates in the party.

The 13 Republicans who voted for the bill were Reps. Don Bacon (R-NE), Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Rep. Andrew Gabarino (R-NY), Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH), Rep. John Katko (R-NY), Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY), Rep. David McKinley (R-WV), Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY), Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-NJ), and Rep. Don Young (R-AK).

The chair of the progressive caucus, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), supported the bill after she secured a promise from moderates that there would be a vote on the larger spending bill when the Congressional Budget Office comes back with a score on how much it will cost.

The bill is the largest piece of transportation spending in U.S. history. It includes $555 billion of new spending over 10 years, with a topline cost of $1.2 trillion.

Here is what's in the bill, via The Associated Press:

  • $110 billion to repair the nation’s highways, bridges and roads. $40 billion of that is for bridges, and the White House says 173,000 total miles of highway and major roads are in poor condition.
  • $66 billion to improve Amtrak service in the Northeast Corridor and add new intracity routes across the country, the largest federal investment in passenger rail service since Amtrak was founded 50 years ago.
  • $65 billion for broadband internet access that aims to improve internet services for rural areas, low-income families and tribal communities.
  • $65 billion to improve the reliability and resiliency of the power grid. Money will also be invested in carbon capture technologies and more environmentally friendly electricity sources like clean hydrogen.
  • $55 billion on water and wastewater infrastructure, including $15 billion to replace lead pipes used for drinking water.
  • $39 billion for public transit in the legislation will expand transportation systems, improve accessibility for people with disabilities and provide dollars to state and local governments to buy zero and low-emission buses.
  • $25 billion to improve runways, gates and taxiways at airports, as well as to upgrade aging airport control towers.
  • $21 billion to clean up Superfund and brownfield sites, reclaim abandoned mine land and cap orphaned gas wells.
  • $7.5 billion to build electric vehicle charging stations across the country and another $5 billion for the purchase of electric school buses and hybrids.

Democrats plan to pay for the bill by tapping $210 billion in unspent COVID-19 relief aid and $53 billion in unemployment insurance aid some states have halted, along with an array of smaller pots of money, like petroleum reserve sales and spectrum auctions for 5G services. The CBO also said that the bill would raise about $50 billion by imposing new Superfund fees and changing the tax reporting requirements for cryptocurrencies, according to CNN. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates it will add $256 billion to the federal deficit over a 10-year span.

Below, we’ll take a look at some reactions from the right and left. Then my take.

What the left is saying.

The left is mostly happy that the bill passed, though some are concerned that progressives caved and won't get their "Build Back Better" plan.

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