This afternoon, President Joe Biden signed the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, into law. At a celebratory signing ceremony on the White House lawn, he and several of the lawmakers who worked to pass the measure, Democrats and Republicans both, joined in praising the new law.
Said Biden: "The new law makes the most significant investment in roads and bridges in the past 70 years, the most significant investment in passenger rail in the past 50 years, and the most significant investment in public transit in our nation's history. It's a BFD." "We're finally getting this done," he said. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) added: "This is what can happen when Republicans and Democrats decide we're going to work together to get something done."
The passage of this infrastructure bill is a big deal. Biden, who remembers the days in which lawmakers of both parties actually worked together to pass legislation that was good for the country, insisted he could get a bipartisan package through today's deeply polarized Congress as proof that bipartisanship is still viable. There were lots of skeptics (including me). But months of hard negotiation produced a bill that is indeed bipartisan and that will bring imperative investment into the country.
Since 1981, we have badly underinvested in our infrastructure as we turned to private investment to develop our economy. In order to stimulate that private investment, we have focused on cutting taxes on the wealthy, but the promised investment never materialized. Now our bridges are crumbling, and some of our water pipes are still leaching lead into our drinking water.
The new law commits $550 billion in new spending, along with monies from other appropriations, to rebuild the hardscape of our infrastructure. It provides:
$73 billion to upgrade the country's electrical grid,
$66 billion for high-speed internet access across the country,
$47 billion to fight wildfires and protect coastal zones from flooding in the new global climate conditions,
$21 billion to clean up contaminated rivers and lakes and other polluted sites (including abandoned mines, whose private owners left poisons behind when they left),
$15 billion to get rid of lead pipes in drinking water,
$75 billion to build charging stations for electric vehicles, and
$2 billion to bring transportation to rural areas.
To accomplish all these things, it will create good jobs across the country.
The measure is popular, and as soon as the ceremony was over, lawmakers of both parties issued press releases outlining what the new law would bring to their states, regardless of whether they had voted for it.
This bill is more than a needed investment in our roads and bridges. In 1981, in his first Inaugural Address, President Ronald Reagan called for the scaling back of government investment in the country, famously saying: "In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem." After 40 years of cutting government along the lines of that philosophy, this measure signals that the Democrats intend to use the government to invest in ordinary Americans, in the belief that such investment will help the country prosper.
"We can do this," Biden said. "We can deliver real results for real people."
"This law is a blue-collar blueprint to rebuild America. It leaves no one behind. And it makes—it marks an inflection point that we face as a nation," Biden said today. "For most of the 20th century, we led the world by a significant margin because we invested in ourselves. But somewhere along the way, we stopped investing in ourselves. We've risked losing our edge as a nation, and China and the rest of the world are catching up…. [B]ecause of this law, next year will be the first year in 20 years American infrastructure investment will grow faster than China's. We'll once again have the best roads, bridges, ports, and airports over the next decade. And we'll lead the world into the 21st century with modern cars and trucks and transit systems."
Biden has named former mayor of New Orleans and former lieutenant governor of Louisiana Mitch Landrieu to oversee the infrastructure spending, along with a task force that includes National Economic Council Director Brian Deese, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Labor Secretary Martin J. Walsh, and Office of Personnel Management Director Kiran Ahuja.
It is a historic bill, not least because it recalled times when the government just…functioned, with members of both parties backing the passage of a popular bill that reflected a lot of hard work to hammer out a compromise.
And yet, Trump loyalists have attacked the bill as "Joe Biden's Communist takeover of America" and have attacked any Republican who supported it as "a traitor to our party, a traitor to their voters and a traitor to our donors." Some of the Republicans voting for it have gotten death threats.
In response, according to CNN's chief congressional correspondent Manu Raju, 18 former House Republicans signed a letter supporting the new law and calling on Republican leaders in the House to defend the 13 House Republicans who voted for it.
But the Republican party leadership appears to be doubling down on support for former president Trump over all else. Today the central committee of the Wyoming Republican Party voted 31–29 that it would no longer recognize Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) as a member because of her stand against Trump for his role in the January 6 insurrection.
Today, Trump loyalist Steve Bannon, who seems to have been deeply involved in the January 6 insurrection, appeared in federal court to answer charges of contempt of Congress for ignoring a subpoena.
While Biden cabinet officers were telling the country: "We're going to bring high-speed, affordable, and reliable broadband to 100% of Americans," "We're going to replace lead pipes all across America and clean up long standing pollution," and "We're going to create good paying jobs with historic investments in passenger rail, roads and bridges, and public transport," Bannon had a different message.
"We're taking down the Biden regime," Bannon told reporters before he went to court, where the judge released him pending trial. "I'm telling you right now, this is going to be the misdemeanor from hell for [Attorney General] Merrick Garland, [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden." He said his team is "going to go on the offense."
Tonight, Bannon echoed Trump's call to the Proud Boys who would fight for him on January 6, defiantly telling supporters to "stand by."