US House of Representatives approves $965 billion infrastructure Bill

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) – The Democratic-controlled US House of Representatives approved a US$715 billion (S$965 billion) surface transportation and water infrastructure Bill on Thursday (July 1) in what Democrats see as an early step toward sweeping infrastructure legislation that Congress hopes to complete in September.

The Bill, which includes provisions from President Joe Biden’s initial US$2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal, authorises additional spending for roads, bridges, highway safety, electric vehicle charging stations, rail, transit, drinking and wastewater infrastructure.

It also funds programmes that would provide money for major projects, including an US$11.6 billion plan to connect New Jersey and New York’s Penn Station in midtown Manhattan via four modern transportation tubes beneath the Hudson River.

The 221-201 vote sends the legislation to the Democratic-led Senate.

The US$715 billion “Invest in America Act” contains more than US$44 billion added during the amendment process to make greater investments in infrastructure, including electric vehicle charging and passenger rail grant programmes, according to aides to House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Pete DeFazio.

The action marks the first time that the House has voted to pass legislation containing earmarks, since Democrats and Republicans reinstituted the practice of allowing lawmakers to add pet projects to spending Bills earlier this year.

The Bill designates more than 1,470 projects amounting to nearly US$5.7 billion in spending, according to the US House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee. Nearly 1,070 projects worth just under US$4 billion were sought by Democrats.

Republicans secured 403 projects valued at nearly US$1.7 billion.

The legislation is necessary to reauthorise US surface transportation programmes by a Sept 30 deadline.

House Democratic aides say the measure could also help a bipartisan working group in the US Senate covert their US$1.2 trillion infrastructure framework into legislative text.

Mr Biden has endorsed the bipartisan deal and the Democratic-led Senate hopes to pass legislation by the end of this month.

House Democrats are also working to produce a related landmark reconciliation Bill that would address climate change, expand social programmes and pay for new initiatives with tax hikes on US corporations and the wealthy – objectives that Republicans reject.

House and Senate Democrats are aiming to pass a budget resolution with reconciliation instructions this month, and then give final congressional approval to bipartisan infrastructure legislation and the reconciliation bill in September. The initiatives could cost US$6 trillion, all told.

Thursday’s House surface transportation bill contains US$343 billion for roads, bridges and safety – including US$4 billion for electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

The measure also calls for US$109 billion for transit and US$95 billion for rail, including tripling funding for the US passenger railroad, Amtrak, to US$32 billion, US$117 billion for drinking water infrastructure and more than US$51 billion for wastewater infrastructure.

It would authorise US$4.1 billion for grants to buy electric transit buses, create a US$500 million grant programme to reduce traffic gridlock in large metropolitan areas and US$1 billion to address the shortage of parking for commercial motor vehicles and allow for heavier electric vehicles on US roads and mandate additional safety features in new school buses.

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