US Senate Approves $1.2 Trillion Infrastructure Spending Bill
15:41 GMT 10.08.2021 (Updated: 17:35 GMT 10.08.2021)
Republicans have whittled down President Biden's ambitious $2 trillion infrastructure plan since it was unveiled in the spring, with lawmakers from both parties moving to hammer out an agreement on the matter before leaving Washington for their month-and-a-half-long summer vacation.
The US Senate approved a $1.2 trillion infrastructure spending package on Tuesday, with the measure sent to the House of Representatives for final approval after prominent Republican senators including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham voted in favour.
The measure is almost certain to pass in the House, where Democrats enjoy majority control. The Senate, meanwhile, is split 50/50 between Republicans and Democrats in the 100-member legislature, making the rare bipartisan consensus seen on Tuesday crucial. The bill passed with 69-30 support.
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi previously threatened to hold up the bill in her chamber if the Senate does not also pass $3.5 trillion budget plan including funding for climate change, access to health care and education, and other priority issues. Republicans have expressed concerns that the $6 trillion+ in spending already pumped into the system amid the coronavirus pandemic over the past year-and-a-half may destabilise the economy and cause galloping inflation.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki praised the infrastructure bill's Senate passage later Tuesday, saying the "historic" legislation would "deliver huge benefits [including] millions of jobs to the American people."
"It will deliver clean water and high-speed internet to every household in the country. It will help us tackle the climate crisis by electrifying scoolbuses, building electric vehicle chargers across the station, upgrade our power infrastructure to be resilient against natural disasters. And it will rebuild roads and bridges and modernize America's airports, rail and public transit systems," Psaki said.
The $1.2 trillion in spending on infrastructure is a pared down version of President Biden's original $2.3 trillion vision, which on top of roads and bridges also included contentious proposals to fund things like private home environmental efficiency improvements and other non-public infrastructure outlays.
The passing of the infrastructure bill comes amid ongoing disagreements between the two parties on raising the debt ceiling. Last month, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned Congress that "irreparable harm" would be caused if the debt ceiling was not raised by the beginning of August. Last week, the Treasury invoked "extraordinary" emergency cash-saving measures to stop the US from defaulting on its tens of trillions of dollars in debt.
US federal debt reached over $28.5 trillion in June, with combined debt, which includes federal liabilities plus other public and private obligations, standing at over $85 trillion, or more than four times the US's annual GDP.
Lawmakers are expected to leave for their month-and-a-half-long recess later this week, and to return to work in mid-September.