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The U.S. House is scheduled to vote Monday on a bipartisan infrastructure bill. It is about time.
The infrastructure bill, which has already passed the Senate, was negotiated months ago but was then entangled in the politics of a much larger spending bill championed by President Joe Biden and Democratic congressional leaders. That $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill is now stalled in Congress, with a couple Senate Democrats saying they won’t vote for it.
So, tying the infrastructure bill to the larger, uncertain spending plan could doom them both.
Passing the $1 trillion infrastructure now will show that Republicans and Democrats can work together to pass important legislation — and to fund needed projects.
This could — and we emphasize this a big could — set the stage for more productive conversations around the debt ceiling and government funding, both issues Congress must take action on in the next few days.
“This is simple: On Monday, we have an opportunity to deliver for our country and show them that Congress can still work like it’s supposed to,” U.S. Rep. Jared Golden told us. “Democrats, Republicans, and the White House have worked together to make a once-in-a-generation investment in better roads, bridges, broadband, replacing lead pipes, and much more, and for six weeks now it’s been held up by the political games that make most Americans hate Washington.”
“My colleagues in the House need to drop the political hostage-taking and partisanship, focus on what is best for the country, and pass this bill on Monday,” he added.
Democratic House leaders have already lost momentum on the infrastructure bill, which was the result of negotiations between the White House and a group of 21 senators, including Republicans, Democrats and an independent. U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King were in that group. The bipartisan package was also supported by the Problem Solvers Caucus in the House, a group of Republican and Democratic lawmakers, including Golden.
When it passed the Senate in August, 19 Republicans voted for it, a stunning number given the current divisiveness in Washington.
By waiting to bring the bill to the House floor and tying its fate to the bigger spending plan, much of that Republican support has evaporated.
In addition, several progressive Democrats have said that they will not support the smaller infrastructure bill if the $3.5 trillion package does not move forward at the same time. This thinking could sink both bills — and poison the ongoing work to raise the debt ceiling and pass a measure to fund the federal government after Sept. 30, when the current spending resolution runs out. Republican leaders say they will not work with Democrats on the debt ceiling or a continuing resolution to fund the government if they are tied to the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill.
The infrastructure bill offers a way to break this logjam and change the tenor of debate on the other issues.
“Enacting significant infrastructure legislation, including investments in our roads, bridges, ports, airports, transit, rail, water and energy infrastructure, access to broadband, and more, is critical to our nation and will create middle-class family-sustaining jobs,” a coalition of business and labor interests said in July. “Don’t let partisan differences get in the way of action.”
Two months later, this remains sound advice.
Correction: A quote in this editorial was misattributed to the bipartisan group of senators that negotiated the $1 trillion infrastructure package. The comments were from a business and labor coalition.