After much back and forth, the US Senate has finally passed an infrastructure bill. The bill has a total cost of one trillion dollars and was arrived at after weeks of haggling in which Republicans fought to reduce it from the more ambitious plan that Joe Biden and progressive Democrats had initially wanted. In the end 19 Republicans voted for it, joining all 50 Democrats, and Biden hailed the compromise as a sign that the much sought-after unicorn of bipartisanship was not dead.
It was a key affirmation of Joe Biden’s strategy to push bipartisanship in his legislative agenda, and the White House on Tuesday afternoon trumpeted that it would create “millions of jobs”, as well as support greener policies such as expanding networks of charging stations for electric cars, and boosting train travel and electric buses.
The $1tn bill – which still has to navigate another passage through the House of Representatives before reaching the president’s desk – would invest new federal funds in upgrading roads and bridges but also boost greener policies.
The bill focuses on updating the nation’s power grid to make it more resilient against extreme weather in the era of the climate crisis, invest in protecting public utility systems from cyber-attacks and helping to make the nation’s coastlines more protected from rising seas.
The bill also aims to help replace lead drinking pipes, modernize and expand transit, upgrade passenger and freight rail, and improve broadband internet. About $65bn is to be provided for broadband, a provision the Republican senator Susan Collins negotiated because she said the pandemic showed that such a service “is no longer a luxury. It is a necessity.”
Donald Trump is furious that Republicans supported the bill and had previously threatened to withhold support from any Republican lawmaker who voted for it. But that did not seem to be enough of a deterrent for the 19. I think Trump now realizes that he blew it. Such a bipartisan infrastructure bill could have been his for the taking. There has always been bipartisan support for infrastructure because not only is it needed, it also provides a lot of jobs in every state for people of all political persuasions. While in office, Trump kept trumpeting ‘infrastructure weeks’ where he talked about the need for it but he never actually produced any legislation. This is because he simply did not care about the nuts and bolts of governing a country. He only cared about enriching himself, his family, and cronies, and using his office to inflame cultural wars that would please his rabid supporters, such as the border wall, kneeling football players, the flag, and the like. The only legislative achievement he had was giving a big tax break for the rich.
So now he has to stand on the sidelines while Biden takes a victory lap that was aided by members of his own party. He will portray that as a betrayal of him and the Republican party but the simple fact is that it is he who could have taken this victory lap and he knows it, which is why he must be angry.