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House OKs $1.5T Plan for Infrastructure07/02 06:11

   The Democratic-controlled House approved a $1.5 trillion plan Wednesday to 
rebuild the nation's crumbling infrastructure, pouring hundreds of billions of 
dollars into projects to fix roads and bridges, upgrade transit systems, expand 
interstate railways and dredge harbors, ports and channels.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Democratic-controlled House approved a $1.5 trillion 
plan Wednesday to rebuild the nation's crumbling infrastructure, pouring 
hundreds of billions of dollars into projects to fix roads and bridges, upgrade 
transit systems, expand interstate railways and dredge harbors, ports and 
channels.

   The bill also authorizes more than $100 billion to expand internet access 
for rural and low-income communities and $25 billion to modernize the U.S. 
Postal Service's infrastructure and operations, including a fleet of electric 
vehicles.

   Lawmakers approved the Moving Forward Act by a 233-188 vote, mostly along 
party lines. It now goes to the Republican-controlled Senate, where a much 
narrower bill approved by a key committee has languished for nearly a year. 
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has not attempted to schedule a floor 
debate and none appears forthcoming.

   The idea of "Infrastructure Week" in the Trump era has become a long-running 
inside joke in Washington because there was little action to show for it. 
Still, Wednesday's vote represented at least a faint signal of momentum for the 
kind of program that has traditionally held bipartisan appeal.

   Democrats hailed the House bill, which goes far beyond transportation to 
fund schools, health care facilities, public utilities and affordable housing.

   Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., chairman of the House Transportation and 
Infrastructure Committee and a sponsor of the legislation, called it a 
"transformational investment in American infrastructure that will create 
millions of jobs."

   Republicans ridiculed the bill for what they called a Green New Deal-style 
focus on climate.

   "Instead of seeking bipartisan solutions, this bill adds $1.5 trillion to 
the nation's debt and disguises a heavy-handed and unworkable Green New Deal 
regime of new requirements as an 'infrastructure bill,'" said Missouri Rep. Sam 
Graves, the top Republican on the transportation panel.

   Graves blamed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats for turning 
what has traditionally been a bipartisan issue in Congress --- infrastructure 
--- into what he called "a partisan wish list."

   Republicans scored a rare procedural victory, winning approval of an 
amendment to block money from the bill going to Chinese state-owned enterprises 
or companies responsible for building internment camps for the nation's Uighur 
minority.

   The White House promised a veto if the measure reaches the president's desk. 
In a statement this week, the White House said the bill "is heavily biased 
against rural America,'' is based on debt financing and "fails to tackle the 
issue of unnecessary permitting delays" that have long impeded infrastructure 
projects.

   President Donald Trump has frequently declared his support for 
infrastructure projects and pledged during the 2016 campaign to spend at least 
$1 trillion to improve infrastructure. Since taking office, Trump has 
repeatedly called for enactment of an infrastructure package --- but those 
efforts have failed to result in legislation.

   Hopes were dashed last year when Trump said he wouldn't deal with Democrats 
if they continued to investigate him. The House later impeached him.

   Trump said after signing a $2 trillion coronavirus relief package that low 
interest rates made it a good time to borrow money to pay for an infrastructure 
bill. No formal proposal has emerged, although the White House has suggested 
the next virus response bill could include an infrastructure component.

   The centerpiece of the House legislation is a nearly $500 billion, 5-year 
surface transportation plan for roads, bridges and railways. The White House 
said in its veto threat that the proposal is "heavily skewed toward programs 
that would disproportionately benefit America's urban areas." The bill would 
divert money from the Highway Trust Fund to transit and rail projects that 
"have seen declining market shares in recent years," the White House statement 
said.

   Democrats countered that the bill would rebuild the nation's transportation 
infrastructure, not only by fixing crumbling roads and bridges, but also by 
investing in public transit and the national rail network, boosting low- and 
zero-emission vehicles and cutting carbon pollution that contributes to climate 
change.

   The bill also authorizes $130 billion in school infrastructure targeted at 
high-poverty schools with facilities that endanger the health and safety of 
students and educators, Democrats said. The schools portion alone could create 
more than 2 million jobs, they said.

   The bill would spend more than $100 billion to create or preserve at least 
1.8 million affordable homes. "These investments will help reduce housing 
inequality, create jobs and stimulate the broader economy,'' Democrats said in 
a "fact sheet" promoting the bill.

   The measure also would upgrade child care facilities and protect access to 
safe drinking water by investing $25 billion in a state revolving fund that 
ensures communities have clean drinking water and remove dangerous contaminants 
from local water systems.

   Three Republicans voted in favor of the bill: Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of 
Pennsylvania and Reps. Jeff Van Drew and Chris Smith, both of New Jersey. Two 
Democrats opposed it: Reps. Collin Peterson of Minnesota and Ben McAdams of 
Utah.

 
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