The US construction industry has responded warmly to the Senate’s passing of an historic, $1.2trn bipartisan infrastructure bill that includes $550bn for roads, bridges, power, rail, public transit and water.
Following months of negotiations, senators approved the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act on 10 August in a 69-30 vote enabled by 19 Republican senators backing the Democrats.
“After years and years and years of ‘Infrastructure Week’, we’re on the cusp of an infrastructure decade that I truly believe will transform America,” US President Joe Biden said after the vote.
It must now clear the House of Representatives, where Democrat Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she wants to link it to an even bigger, $3.5trn package supporting what Biden has described as “human infrastructure,” meaning education, childcare and health care.
Democrats aim to pass this bigger package as a budget reconciliation measure, which means it could pass in the Senate with a simple majority, not the 60 votes needed to avoid a deal-killing filibuster.
“I’m ecstatic. There’s nothing in my tenure … that compares to this,” said Paul Maron, a project manager for Strand Associates in Louisville, Kentucky and an infrastructure advocate for the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), which celebrated the Senate vote this week.
“When it comes to reinvesting in our infrastructure, for so long we’ve just been doing the bare minimum, making very modest, incremental improvements,” Maron continued. “But this, I think, is a giant leap forward. And I hope this sets an expectation for more bills like this – not just as a response to a pandemic, but what we should be doing for our future generations going forward.”
His views were echoed by Dave Bauer, president of the American Road & Transportation Builders Association. “The strong bipartisan spirit demonstrated in the Senate approval of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act sets the bar high,” he said. “The US economy and transportation system users stand to benefit most from enactment of an infrastructure bill that combines historic investment levels with pragmatic policy reforms.
“The Senate vote is a much-needed step, but not the finish line. We will continue to work with the House, Senate and the Biden administration to help achieve an outcome that addresses America’s transportation infrastructure needs today and in the future.”
Speaking for the Associated General Contractors of America, chief executive Stephen E. Sandherr praised the $1.2trn bill, but urged the House not to delay it with the $3.5trn package, which he characterised as “partisan”.
“The new infrastructure measure … provides much-needed new federal investments in a wide range of infrastructure projects,” he said.
“These investments will help generate new demand for construction services, equipment, and materials. More important, the new investments will create high-paying construction career opportunities and help make our economy more efficient and competitive.”
He added: “Unfortunately, some members of the House want to delay action on the bipartisan measure until passing an unrelated, partisan, spending bill. The last thing Washington should do is hold a much-needed, bipartisan infrastructure bill hostage to partisan politics.”
Image: President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris watch the Senate pass the bipartisan Infrastructure bill on 10 August 2021 (The White House/Public domain)