Investing News

By a vote of 69 to 30, including 19 Republicans and all 50 Democrats, the U.S. Senate passed a $1.2 trillion infrastructure package, known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, on Tues., Aug. 10, 2021. Following passage, the proposed legislation was sent to the House of Representatives where further adjustments are expected. Should the bill pass, the House and Senate will need to consolidate their respective versions for a final bill to go to President Biden for his signature.

That Tuesday bill is one of two pieces of infrastructure legislation under consideration in the Senate. In addition to the $1.2 trillion bipartisan bill, a second $3.5 trillion Democratic proposal is in play.

On Aug. 9, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer addressed this second bill in a letter to colleagues saying, “I will immediately move to the FY2022 Budget Resolution with reconciliation instructions.” Reconciliation means the $3.5 trillion bill could pass the Senate by a simple majority vote avoiding the risk of a filibuster. And some House progressives had said they would not support the bipartisan plan unless the Senate moved quickly on the second bill.

Just before 4 a.m. Wed. morning, Aug. 11, the Senate passed the blueprint of the $3.5 trillion second bill on a party-line vote of 50 to 49.

Then, on Aug. 24, the House of Representatives passed an identical budget resolution by a 220-212 vote, along party lines. This would enable the Senate Democrats to attempt to pass the $3.5 trillion bill by a simple majority using the budget reconciliation process, provided the fragile truce between progressive and moderate Democrats holds. The question is, will it?

In the midst of all the rancor over infrastructure, there are the twin matters of the debt ceiling and government funding. The fiscal year ends Sept. 30, 2021. Absent a budget resolution or continuing resolution to provide funding, the government will shut down. By mid-October, the debt ceiling must be raised or the government will no longer be able to pay its bills.

These events are related because Republicans have said they won’t vote to raise the debt ceiling while Democrats are pushing for their $3.5 trillion Build Back Better agenda. As recently as Sept. 27, 2021, Democratic efforts to raise the debt ceiling have been rebuffed by Republicans.

Update: Has Infrastructure Week Finally Arrived?

Perhaps. After much wrangling and heated intra-party discussion, Speaker Nancy Pelosi signaled on Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021, that it was time for the House to vote on and pass the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill while negotiations continue on the larger $3.5 trillion social safety net legislation.

In a Dear Colleague letter to members of the Democratic caucus Pelosi separated the two bills saying first:

“We are now working together with the Senate and the White House on changes to this historic legislation For The People, which includes the Child Tax Credit, child care, paid family and medical leave, home health care, universal pre-K and more.”

Separately she set a deadline to act on the bipartisan bill:

“Tomorrow, September 27, we will begin debate on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework on the Floor of the House and vote on it on Thursday, September 30, the day on which the surface transportation authorization expires.”

Whether Pelosi’s plan succeeds depends on whether progressives in the party, led by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), support the bipartisan bill while continuing to work out differences on the larger Build Back Better Act.

Here is what is in both bills and what happens next.

What’s in the $1.2 Trillion Bipartisan Bill

The 2,702-page bipartisan bill contains just $550 billion in new spending. The $1.2 trillion figure comes from including additional funding normally allocated each year for highways and other infrastructure projects. The new spending consists of:

$110 billion for roads and bridges. In addition to construction and repair, the funding also helps pay for transportation research at universities, funding for Puerto Rico’s highways, and “congestion relief” in American cities.

$66 billion for railroads. Funding includes upgrades and maintenance of America’s passenger rail system and freight rail safety, but nothing for high-speed rail.

$65 billion for the power grid. The bill would fund updates to power lines and cables, as well as provide money to prevent hacking of the power grid. Clean energy funding is also included.

$65 billion for broadband. Includes funding to expand broadband in rural areas and in low-income communities. Approximately $14 billion of the total would help reduce internet bills for low-income citizens.

$55 billion for water infrastructure. This funding includes $15 billion for lead pipe replacement, $10 billion for chemical clean-up, and money to provide clean drinking water in tribal communities.

$47 billion for cybersecurity and climate change. The Resilience fund will protect infrastructure from cybersecurity attacks and address flooding, wildfires, coastal erosion, and droughts along with other extreme weather events.

$39 billion for public transit. Funding here provides for upgrades to public transit systems nationwide. The allocation also includes money to create new bus routes and help make public transit more accessible to seniors and disabled Americans.

$25 billion for airports. This allocation provides funding for major upgrades and expansions at U.S. airports. Air traffic control towers and systems would receive $5 billion of the total for upgrades.

$21 billion for the environment. These monies would be used to clean up superfund and brownfield sites, abandoned mines, and old oil and gas wells.

$17 billion for ports. Half of the funds in this category would go to the Army Corps of Engineers for port infrastructure. Additional funds would go to the Coast Guard, ferry terminals, and reduction of truck emissions at ports.

$11 billion for safety. Appropriations here are to address highway, pedestrian, pipeline, and other safety areas with highway safety getting the bulk of the funding.

$8 billion for Western water infrastructure. Ongoing drought conditions in the western half of the country will be addressed through investments in water treatment, storage, and reuse facilities.

$7.5 bill for electric vehicle charging stations. The Biden administration asked for this funding to build significantly more charging stations for electric vehicles across the nation.

$7.5 billion for electric school buses. With an emphasis on bus fleet replacement in low-income, rural, and tribal communities, this funding is expected to allow those communities to convert to zero-emission buses.

What’s in the $3.5 Trillion Democratic Proposal

The Democratic FY2022 Budget Resolution Agreement Framework memorandum is designed to enact President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda. This proposal, often referred to as an investment in human infrastructure, is far-reaching and ambitious. It lists the following amounts and areas to be addressed:

$135 billion for the Committee on Agriculture Nutrition and Forestry. Funding to be used to address forest fires, reduce carbon emissions, and address drought concerns.

$332 billion for the Banking Committee. Including investments in public housing, the Housing Trust Fund, housing affordability, and equity and community land trusts.

$198 billion for the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. This would develop clean energy.

$67 billion for the Environment and Public Works Committee. These monies would fund low-income solar and other climate-friendly technologies.

$1.8 trillion for the Finance Committee. This part of the bill is for investments in working families, the elderly, and the environment. It includes a tax cut for Americans making less than $400,000 a year, lowering the price of prescription drugs, and ensuring the wealthy and large corporations pay their fair share of taxes.

$726 billion for the Health, Labor, Education, and Pensions Committee. This addresses universal pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds, childcare for working families, tuition-free community college, funding for historically black colleges and universities, and an expansion of the Pell Grant for higher education.

$37 billion for the HSGAC Committee. This would electrify the federal vehicle fleet, electrify and rehab federal buildings, improve cybersecurity infrastructure, reinforce border management, invest in green-materials procurement, and invest in resilience. 

$107 billion for the Judiciary Committee. These funds address establishing “lawful permanent status for qualified immigrants.”

$20.5 billion for the Indian Affairs Committee. This addresses Native American health programs and facilities, education programs and facilities, housing programs, energy programs, resilience and climate programs, BIA programs and facilities, Native language programs, and the Native Civilian Climate Corps.

$25 billion for the Small Business Committee. This provides for small business access to credit, investment, and markets.

$18 billion for the Veterans Affairs Committee. This funds upgrades to veteran facilities.

$83 billion for the Commerce Committee. This goes to investments in technology, transportation, research, manufacturing, and economic development. It provides funding for coastal resiliency, healthy oceans investments, including the National Oceans and Coastal Security Fund and the National Science Foundation research and technology directorate.

A Possible Timeline

While Democrats and Republicans alike have praised the bipartisan infrastructure bill, there remain significant challenges to be addressed before the money starts flowing.

Aug. 10, 2021—Immediately after passing the bipartisan bill, the Senate voted 50 to 49 to begin debate on the $3.5 trillion infrastructure bill.

Aug. 11, 2021—Senate Democrats passed the $3.5 trillion budget resolution 50 to 49. Democrats in the House and Senate now begin the time-consuming task of drafting a final product.

Aug. 23, 2021—House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer sent a “Dear Colleague” letter to House members Aug. 10 stating that the House would “return to session the evening of Aug. 23, 2021” to consider the anticipated Senate budget resolution ($3.5 trillion bill). Hoyer said the House would remain in session “until our business for the week is concluded.”

Aug. 24, 2021—The House of Representatives did pass the budget resolution which also instructs House committees to write the $3.5 trillion legislation. To please Democratic centrists eager to pass the bipartisan $1.2 trillion bill, the resolution included a nonbinding commitment to vote on that infrastructure bill by Sept. 27. In a statement, House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi said, “In consultation with the Chair of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I am committing to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill by September 27. I do so with a commitment to rally House Democratic support for its passage.”

Sept. 15, 2021—The memorandum outlining the $3.5 trillion plan recommended that congressional committees “submit legislation to the Committee on the Budget by September 15 to carry out this section, though this date is not binding.” The markup was completed on time and advanced on Sept. 15, 2021.

Sept. 27, 2021-The original non-binding deadline to vote on the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package became the deadline to begin debate on the bill with a new voting deadline of Thur. Sept. 30, 2021, viz a viz Speaker Pelosi’s “Dear Colleague” letter referenced above.

Sept. 30, 2021- The new deadline to vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill will decide the immediate fate of this legislation and depends on the support of progressive Democrats who have said they will not support this bill without a guarantee both the $1.2 trillion and $3.5 trillion parts of the Biden agenda move together on a dual-track. Now, House progressives have been joined by 11 Senate Democrats calling for the passage of the larger bill in the Senate before the smaller bill is approved.

Infrastructure Prognosis

Speaker Pelosi’s resolve to pass the smaller bipartisan bill on Sept. 30 vs. the determination of progressives in the House and Senate to pass both bills, will put Pelosi’s reputation as a party manager to its biggest test yet.

As predicted, the fact the $3.5 trillion budget package isn’t ready for prime time, has put Democrats and their leader in the position of voting for the smaller bipartisan bill first and potentially ending up with a much less ambitious budget bill weeks later. And that assumes progressives vote for the smaller standalone bill, something they’ve sworn not to do.

For now, Sept. 30 remains a pivotal date not only for the future of ‘Infrastructure Week’ but also for the long-term reputation of the Biden presidency. As with all things political, however, last-minute negotiations could change everything. Stay tuned.