While the Senate passed a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill with the support of 19 Republicans, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has vowed that the lower chamber will not vote on that bill until the Senate approves a $3.5 trillion spending package full of Democrats’ priorities.
$1 Trillion Infrastructure Bill
A product of negotiations between Democrats and some senior Republicans in the Senate, the “Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America Act” — or the “INVEST in America Act” — is projected by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to add $256 billion to the federal deficit over the next 10-year period if enacted.
The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB) conducted their own analysis that found that the final addition to the deficit could tally beyond $340 billion during that period.
According to media reports, specific items in the bill include:
- $110 billion for roads and bridges
- $66 billion for rail
- $65 billion for broadband
- $40 billion for transit
- $65 billion for electrical grid
- $50 billion for infrastructure resiliency
- $7.5 billion for electric vehicle (EV) charging stations
- $7.5 billion for electric school buses and ferries
A fact sheet from the White House touting that the plan will “deliver for Texas,” the Lone Star State would receive:
- $26.9 billion for federal-aid highway apportioned programs
- $537 million for bridge replacement and repairs
- $3.3 billion for public transportation
- $408 million for EV charging stations
- $100 million for broadband expansion
“There’s no doubt the nation’s transportation and digital infrastructure need improvements, and Texas stands to benefit once this bill becomes law,” said Cornyn, adding that he ultimately decided to vote against it because of the amount it would add to the deficit.
“After reviewing the CBO’s analysis, which estimates the bill will increase the deficit by a quarter trillion dollars, and because of the failure to include my bipartisan amendment, I cannot support the final bill,” he said.
Cornyn’s amendment would have given state and local governments more flexibility in the usage of unspent federal COVID-19 relief funds.
Cruz was more consistent in vocal opposition to the bill.
“At a time when we spent trillions of dollars already to combat the deadly pandemic, at a time we are seeing rising inflation across the country, we can’t responsibly be spending yet another trillion dollars,” said Cruz. “This bill is part of a much broader problem we’re having with reckless federal spending.”
Though he opposed the legislation, Cruz touted an amendment added to the bill to “designate portions of Interstate 14 as a future addition to the interstate highway system.”
“This will allow Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia to take the first steps to upgrade those roads — helping produce jobs in all five states and enhancing the ability of our military bases to transport vital equipment-and critically, my amendment costs nothing additional for the American taxpayers,” said Cruz.
In order for the INVEST in America Act to become law, it still needs approval from the lower chamber.
Though it is expected to have enough support there to pass into law, Pelosi has pledged to hold off on bringing it to the floor until the Senate approves the $3.5 trillion plan pushed by Democrats.
$3.5 Trillion Budget Reconciliation Package
Democrats hope to achieve many of their priorities through a $3.5 trillion spending plan through a process known as “budget reconciliation,” which allows them to bypass the 60-member supermajority in the Senate needed to end a filibuster.
While details of the final package will be worked out throughout the fall, the Senate immediately began work on establishing the framework for the reconciliation bill after voting on the infrastructure bill.
The CRFB estimates that the budget resolution “allows for up to roughly $1.75 trillion of new borrowing through the reconciliation process.”
More controversial, partisan items that Democrats hope to include in the package — per a memorandum from Senate Democrats — includes hundreds of billions spent toward “tackling the climate crisis,” establishing “lawful permanent status for qualified immigrants,” and “ensuring that the wealthy and large corporations pay their fair share of taxes.”
The Senate went into the late hours of Tuesday night and into Wednesday in a “vote-a-rama,” voting on amendment after amendment on the framework of the package, with the body ultimately moving the measure forward in a 50 to 49 party-line vote.
“By passing the Bernie Budget tonight, Democrats fully embraced the radical left as they ram through trillions in crushing taxes and wasteful spending,” said Cruz in a press release. “Biden Inflation is burying middle-class Americans, and is especially painful for seniors on a fixed income. We will look back on this as one of the biggest mistakes in this administration.”
“Democrats’ budget provides a roadmap to paying over a trillion dollars a year to service the debt they’re eager to run up. This reckless tax-and-spending spree is fundamentally bad policy, and I’ll keep fighting it tooth and nail,” said Cornyn.
Like the infrastructure bill, the Democrats’ reconciliation process will also need to work its way through the House.
Although the bill has much more fanfare among Democrats than Republicans, there are several more moderate Democrats who have expressed concern about the large amount of spending.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) said he has “serious concerns” about the legislation and that “it is simply irresponsible to continue spending levels more suited to respond to a Great Depression or Great Recession.”
Nine House members — including Texas Reps. Vicente Gonzalez (D-TX-15), Henry Cuellar (D-TX-28), and Filemon Vela (D-TX-34) — sent a letter to Pelosi expressing “concerns about specific components of the reconciliation package.”
“Before the House adopts a budget resolution, Members of Congress should be able to review a detailed scope of spending levels and revenue raisers,” wrote the members. “These specifics are crucial, particularly given the combined threat of rising inflation, national debt, and the trillions recently, and appropriately, allocated to the COVID-19 emergency.”
As the legislation works its way through the process, non-budgetary aspects of the bill may be forced to be dropped under the Senate’s standing “Byrd Rule” to become “Byrd droppings.”
More consideration and debate on both pieces of legislation is expected this fall.
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Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.