Earlier this month the U.S. Senate passed a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package. The package included a host of priorities ranging from traditional infrastructure projects like roads, bridges, and transportation projects to forward looking innovations in areas like broadband deployment and cyber security.
Notably, the infrastructure package calls for the largest single investment in clean energy transmission in American history at 65 billion dollars. This money will be used to construct thousands of miles of new transmission lines, will invest in research and development, and promote smart grid technologies that will make the electric system more resilient.
Along with these transmission investments, additional clean energy dollars will be used to build out a national network of electric vehicle chargers to aid the shift towards a cleaner transportation sector. This strategy will help America maintain its position as a world leader in EV technology – an emerging industry which will support hundreds of thousands of jobs and create billions of dollars in economic impact in the years to come.
The fact that 19 Republican Senators were willing to join with Democrats on this issue shows just how critical infrastructure investments are to all of the country. No sector of the economy or region of the U.S. goes unaffected by such efforts. In fact, a Monmouth Poll from earlier in the year showed that 68% of Americans believe the U.S. should support infrastructure investments like those proposed in this plan.
What is still left up in the air, however, is just how the Congress intends to fund these investments. While Senators on both sides of the aisle have claimed that this bill is ‘paid for’ through spending reductions without raising taxes, the truth is a little more complicated. While supporting Senators anxious to see the passage of an infrastructure plan rely on repurposed unspent COVID relief funds to offset the costs, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) still sees that as deficit spending and concludes, “On net, the legislation would add $256 billion to projected deficits over that period (2021-2031).”
Also in question is how and when this package will pass in the House of Representatives. Speaker Nancy Pelosi finds herself in a tough spot on the issue as the more progressive members of her party say they will not support this package without first passing a massive $3.5 trillion spending bill to cover priorities like expanded health care coverage, free college education, and expanded child care programs by with tax hikes on the wealthy.
A group of Pelosi’s moderate colleagues have rejected that approach and have insisted that the infrastructure bill be passed immediately while the House irons out the details of a broader spending package. “The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is a bipartisan victory for our nation — the largest investment in infrastructure in a century,” the group says. “Some have suggested that we hold off on considering the Senate infrastructure bill for months – until the reconciliation process is completed. We disagree. With the livelihoods of hardworking American families at stake, we simply can’t afford months of unnecessary delays and risk squandering this once-in-a-century, bipartisan infrastructure package. It’s time to get shovels in the ground and people to work.”
We are encouraged to see lawmakers across the political spectrum recognize the vital need for modernizing and maintaining infrastructure in the United States. CEN polling has found that 86% of voters want to see increasing development of the country’s clean infrastructure.
While we still have not seen solid detail outlining the financial impact of these initiatives in the long-run, many of the proposals outlined in this bill will allow the United States to maintain and strengthen its position as a global energy power and move to become a leader in the clean energy transition. Prioritizing clean energy and the associated infrastructure and transmission upgrades across the country will support economic development, create jobs, bolster manufacturing, and increase our national security.
When you pair these investments with the undeniably necessary upkeep needed for our roads, bridges, transportation sector, ports, and airports, it is clear that Congress should act to responsibly pass a bipartisan infrastructure package swiftly while leaving the more controversial – and expensive – questions of tax hikes and social handouts for the House to sort out in the months to come.