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August 2, 2021

U.S. Senate Could Vote On Physical Infrastructure Bill This Week

Even though Senate Democrats and Republicans made strides early last week on a bipartisan infrastructure package, negotiations continued through the weekend since lawmakers had not yet determined how to pay for the new spending.

After hours of behind-the-scenes debate, on the evening of Sunday, August 1, senators formally introduced an eight-year, $1.2 trillion piece of legislation. According to The Hill, “The bill is expected to face a days-long debate on the Senate floor, with Republicans, and some Democrats, eager to try to make changes after largely being on the sidelines of the bipartisan group’s negotiations.” While the bill’s supporters are hoping senators will approve the bill by the end of this week, The Hill noted the legislation will face opposition from conservative lawmakers.

While MSCI is still digesting the full contents of the 2,702-page long legislative text, which is available here, it has been reported that the bill will be paid for by the repurposing of more than $250 billion in COVID-19 economic aid. Another $50 billion would come from the delay of a Trump-era Medicare rebate rule targeting pharmacy benefit managers; $6 billion would be generated by selling off of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve; and $12 billion would come from reinstating certain Superfund fees.

The legislation currently does not include tax increases though lawmakers could try to add amendments to the bill that raise levies on individuals or businesses.

What is in the bill in terms of spending? According to a summary of the agreement that was released prior to the bill being introduced Sunday, over five years the physical infrastructure package would invest:

  • $110 billion in roads, bridges, and other major highway projects;
  • $73 billion to improve the nation’s electricity grid and $46 billion in cybersecurity initiatives to protect the United States’ critical infrastructure and improve climate resiliency;
  • $66 billion in passenger and freight rail;
  • $65 billion to expand broadband across the United States;
  • $55 billion for water infrastructure and $17.3 billion for ports and waterways;
  • $39.2 billion in public transit;
  • $25 billion in airport projects;
  • $11 billion in highway and pedestrian safety initiatives; and
  • $7.5 billion in developing low-carbon vehicle and ferries that run on natural gas.

While the Senate has made progress, on the other side of the U.S. Capitol, the path forward is much less certain. Currently, Democrats have only a four-vote majority and the chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), has demanded that the House amend the outline to include additional funding to address climate change.

Additionally, House progressives have threatened to vote against the legislation unless House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) links the physical infrastructure bill to the larger $3.5 trillion “human infrastructure” spending package. Regarding that bill, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has said all 50 Democrats plan to vote to advance debate on the party’s $3.5 trillion proposal. Some moderate senators, including Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), have said that while they will vote to allow debate to proceed, they may not vote for final passage.

Meanwhile, new research by the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) indicates the current infrastructure package will create nearly 100,000 new jobs for that industry.