The Reporter (Vacaville)

House approves $715 billion transporta­tion, water bill

- By Kevin Freking

The Democratic­led House approved a sizable $715 billion transporta­tion bill Thursday, a potential investment in roads, rail, public transit and water over five years that could serve as a marker in the negotiatio­ns over a bipartisan infrastruc­ture package.

The bill passed largely along party lines by a vote of 221-201. Just two Republican­s joined Democrats in voting for the package.

President Joe Biden and a bipartisan group of senators have already agreed to a blueprint for a new infrastruc­ture package, but it has not yet been turned into legislatio­n. House Democrats will be pushing to include many of their bill’s provisions when Congress negotiates the broader bipartisan product this summer.

The primary author of the House bill, Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., said the investment being proposed would allow the country to repair bridges, roads and tunnels, thereby increasing the country’s economic competitiv­eness while also tackling what he called the country’s “new existentia­l challenge, which is climate change.”

“We have to rebuild in ways that we never even thought about before. It’s going to be expensive, but the good news is, it is going to create millions, millions of good paying jobs,” DeFazio said.

The legislatio­n provides a potential building block toward Biden’s broader infrastruc­ture proposals. It serves as a starting point for some of the public works investment­s under discussion, but leaves the decision about how to pay for them for another day.

Biden has suggested raising the corporate tax rate to fund infrastruc­ture investment­s, but Republican­s oppose that and would vote against it. The bipartisan group of 10 senators negotiatin­g a nearly $1 trillion plan narrowed on a variety of potential funding sources that don’t involve tax increases.

House Republican­s took issue with the transporta­tion bill being considered Thursday because it doesn’t include a funding mechanism.

Republican­s argued the new spending on infrastruc­ture would increase the deficit and ramp up inflation, hurting families when they buy gas and groceries. They also protested the exclusion of their proposals to further streamline the permitting process so that large infrastruc­ture projects could be completed more quickly and at less cost to taxpayers.

Rep. Sam Graves, the ranking Republican on the Transporta­tion and Infrastruc­ture Committee, noted that Democratic efforts last year to pass an infrastruc­ture bill failed after the then-Republican-controlled Senate declined to take it up.

“Successful legislatin­g requires partnershi­p — not partisansh­ip,” Graves said.

The partisan divide stands in contrast to efforts in the Senate, which this year overwhelmi­ngly passed a $35 billion water infrastruc­ture bill, 892, and where a key committee unanimousl­y passed a bill earlier this year focused on funding for roads and bridges.

The White House earlier this week said the president supported House passage of the bill, saying it “lays a strong foundation for achieving the President’s vision on infrastruc­ture.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had set a goal of passing an infrastruc­ture bill in the House before July 4. Last year, Congress was unable to reach agreement and opted to pass a short-term reauthoriz­ation of transporta­tion programs, which will expire Sept. 30.

 ?? J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? The Capitol is seen in Washington on Thursday as lawmakers leave for the Independen­ce Day recess.
J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS The Capitol is seen in Washington on Thursday as lawmakers leave for the Independen­ce Day recess.

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