President Joe Biden hailed Congress’ passage of his $1 trillion infrastructure package on Saturday as a “monumental step forward for the nation,” after fractious Democratic colleagues resolved a months-long standoff to finally seal the deal.
“Finally, infrastructure week. I’m so happy to say that: infrastructure week,” Biden told reporters.
The measure was approved by House 228-206 late Friday, prompting prolonged applause from the chamber’s relieved Democratic side. Thirteen Republicans, mostly moderates, backed the bill, while six Democrats, including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Cori Bush of Missouri opposed it.
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The bill’s passage sends it to the desk of a president whose approval ratings have fallen and whose nervous party received a cold shoulder from voters in this week’s off-year elections.
Democratic governor candidates were defeated in Virginia and narrowly defeated in New Jersey, both blue-leaning states. These setbacks made party leaders as well as moderates and liberals eager to pass meaningful legislation and demonstrate their ability to govern.
Democrats cannot afford to appear disorganized a year before midterm elections that could result in Republicans regaining control of Congress.
By any standard, the infrastructure package is a historic investment, one that Biden compares in scope to the construction of the interstate highway system last century or the transcontinental railroad the century before.
“This is a blue-collar blueprint to rebuilding America,” he said in his White House remarks.
His mention of infrastructure week was a dig at his predecessor, Donald Trump, whose White House repeatedly declared that “infrastructure week” had arrived, only for nothing to happen.
For Democrats, simply releasing the infrastructure bill for final congressional approval was like a shot of adrenaline. Despite the victory, Democrats suffered a setback when they delayed a vote on a second, larger bill until later this month.
That 10-year, $1.85 trillion bill bolstering health, family, and climate change programs was stalled after moderates demanded a cost estimate from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The postponement dashed hopes that Biden would win a double-barreled victory with the passage of both bills on the same day.
However, in an evening compromise brokered by Biden and House leaders, five moderates agreed to support the bill if the budget office’s estimates are consistent with preliminary numbers provided by the White House and congressional tax analysts.
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The agreement, in which lawmakers agreed to vote on the social and environmental bill by the week of Nov. 15, represented a significant step toward a House vote that could eventually send it to the Senate.
“Generations from now, people will look back and say, ‘This is when America won the economic competition for the twenty-first century,'” Biden said in a written statement released early Saturday.
The president and first lady Jill Biden postponed their trip to their home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, for Friday evening. Instead, Joe Biden met with House leaders, moderates, and progressives, according to a White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.