WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Monday signed into law a sweeping bipartisan infrastructure package, completing the most significant legislative victory of his presidency and the largest investment in the country’s infrastructure in decades.
The bill, priced at $1.2 trillion, will tackle nearly every facet of American infrastructure, including public transportation, roads, bridges, ports, railways, power grids, broadband internet, as well as water and sewage systems.
The package, which includes $550 billion in new spending, is meant to repair and enhance the country’s beleaguered infrastructure, which has languished as investment has slowed. About $650 billion of the funding will be reallocated from already existing projects and funds.
It marks a rare bipartisan win in Washington after years of inaction to address America's aging infrastructure.
"Today, we're finally getting this done," a jubilant Biden said to a group of 800 people including lawmakers from both parties, governors and mayors who attended a signing-ceremony on the White House's South Lawn. "My message to the American people is this: America is moving again, and your life is going to change for the better.”
Bridges, broadband and more will get billions
While the White House and Democrats are quick to tout many of the bill’s aspects, the final package is about less than half of the proposed spending on infrastructure Biden originally requested from Congress.
Biden now faces pressure to ensure the infrastructure investments are felt by communities. The White House tapped former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu to serve as "infrastructure coordinator" to oversee the bill's implementation.
Biden said his administration will seek to "make sure every penny is spent where it's supposed to go in a timely fashion" and that Landrieu will have the "full access to every tool in the federal government to get it done."
"We have the high obligation and the responsibility to ensure this money is used wisely and used well," Biden said.
The legislation directs $110 billion to fix America’s roads and bridges; $66 billion to mainly improve Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor line as well as other routes; $65 billion to expand broadband internet access; $65 billion to modernize the nation’s electrical grid; $55 billion for water and sewage systems; $39 billion to expand public transportation systems; $25 billion to renovate airports; and $7.5 billion for electric vehicle charging stations, among other investments.
"You got it kid," Biden said, recounting the letters from mayors and governors urging him to take taking to address infrastructure needs.
Biden said the spending will make the U.S. more competitive, declaring that "for the first time in 20 years" the U.S. has invested more in infrastructure than China.
Intent on proving that Washington can still deliver on the needs of everyday Americans, Biden sought a bipartisan package with Republican support. Although talks by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., collapsed over the summer, a bipartisan group of senators established a framework that later led to a breakthrough deal. Two of the senators who helped lead those talks, Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, spoke at the signing ceremony Monday.
"How many times have we heard that important policy can only happen on a party-line vote?" said Sinema, who has resisted parts of Biden's separate $1.75 trillion social spending agenda. "Our legislation proves the opposite.”
Sinema, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and other moderate Democrats had considerable objections to many components of the bill, resulting in a slimmed down package from Biden’s original vision.
The bill passed the House on a 228-206 vote, with 13 Republicans voting for the bill and six Democrats opposing. The bill passed the Senate with 19 Republicans supporting it, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell did not attend Monday's ceremony. Biden said the negotiations led to true compromise.
"Folks, too often in Washington, the reason we didn't get things done is because we insisted on getting everything we want," Biden said. "With this law, we focused on getting things done."
To promote the infrastructure package, Biden is scheduled to visit Woodstock, N.H., to visit a bridge over the Pemigewasset River, which has been on the state’s “red list” for its poor condition. He will follow that with a trip Wednesday to Detroit, where he will visit the General Motors’ Factory ZERO electric vehicle assembly plant. The infrastructure law expands electric vehicle charging stations across the country.
Much of the remainder of Biden’s domestic agenda is part of his social spending package, called the "Build Back Better" plan, focused on family care policies, mitigating climate change and expanding health care. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she's hopeful the House will pass the package this week.
Follow Matthew Brown online @mrbrownsir.