- Let's not pretend that the bipartisan infrastructure deal announced this week will become law as proposed. Washington is too tenuous for that. But at least we have a framework that senators from both sides of the aisle have agreed to.
- This is a trillion-dollar plan, but it only includes around $579 billion in new spending, which is much less than the $2 trillion that was discussed earlier in the negotiations.
- Where does the money go? $109 billion for roads and bridges, $15 billion for electric-vehicle infrastructure and electric buses, $66 billion to improve the railroads, and $49 billion for mass transit, among other investments.
It's not finalized yet—not by a long shot—but President Biden's infrastructure plan moved one step closer to reality this week when a bipartisan group of 10 senators announced they had reached a deal on the bill's framework. Despite the fact that things will almost certainly change between now and when some version of the bill eventually, maybe becomes law, we can see the outline of how the U.S. federal government may invest in infrastructure over the next half-decade or so.
With those caveats out of the way, the headline figure is that the bill encompasses around a trillion dollars' worth of infrastructure spending over five years (not all of it new spending), including money for roads and bridges and other transportation projects, like enhanced transit options and airports. The 10 senators, five Democrats and five Republicans, agreed on a framework that also includes money to promote electric vehicles and other infrastructure items. It did not include some of Biden's "human infrastructure" priorities, like education, child care, and elder care.
Here are some of the funding amounts in the deal:
Along with almost $400 billion for transportation projects that is already part of Congress's regular funding process, the deal includes $579 billion in new infrastructure spending. That new money is broken into two main categories. The first includes $312 billion for transportation projects like roads and bridges ($109 billion), railroad improvements ($66 billion), and mass transit ($49 billion), among other expenditures like EVs (detailed below).
The second part of the $579 billion includes $266 billion for other infrastructure efforts, like water systems, broadband internet, and power grids.
On the electric-vehicle front, the bipartisan deal spends $15 billion on EV infrastructure and electric buses. President Biden originally wanted more EV promotion in his infrastructure plan, and that may come with another infrastructure proposal that could be passed with only Democratic votes through a Congressional process called reconciliation. Republicans originally proposed paying for some of the new spending in the agreed-to deal by raising fees on EV drivers, but Biden and the Democrats rejected that idea.
Another casualty of the bipartisan agreement was Biden's call for $100 billion in EV subsidies that was in his American Jobs Plan and would have helped more people buy plug-in vehicles. As CNET reported, there are other proposals being talked about in Congress that would either raise the $7500 tax credit for purchasing a new EV to $12,500 or perhaps include used EVs in the tax credit scheme.
Almost as soon as the bipartisan deal was announced, prominent Republicans expressed outrage that they had been tricked by the way the deal came together. Democrats were not fully satisfied, either. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D–NY) said in a speech on the Senate floor this week that the parts that were not addressed by the bipartisan group would remain part of the discussions as infrastructure legislation moves forward.
"It has been decades, decades, since Congress passed a significant stand-alone bill to increase federal investment in infrastructure," he said, adding that "this summer, [the Senate] is going to move forward on multiple legislative proposals to make historic investments in our nation's infrastructure. And when we say that, we mean both types of infrastructure: the concrete and steel, that kind of infrastructure, the physical infrastructure. But also the human infrastructure, so that we can maximize the potential of our people, which after all, is our greatest resource."