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House approves $1.5 trillion program to fix crumbling infrastructure

WASHINGTON >> 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…

WASHINGTON >> The Democratic-controlled House approved a $1.5 trillion plan Wednesday to rebuild the country’s crumbling infrastructure, pouring hundreds of billions of dollars to jobs to fix streets and bridges, update transit systems, expand interstate railways and dredge harbors, ports and stations.

The bill also authorizes greater than $100 billion to expand internet access for rural and low-income communities and $25 billion to update 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 goes to the Republican-controlled Senate, in which a much more narrow bill accepted by a key committee has languished for nearly a year. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has not attempted to schedule a floor discussion and none appears imminent.

The idea of”Infrastructure Week” at the Trump era has come to be a long-running inside joke in Washington because there was little activity to show for it. Wednesday’s vote represented a faint signal of momentum for the kind of program that has traditionally held appeal.

Democrats hailed the House bill, which extends far beyond transport to fund colleges, medical care facilities, public utilities and very 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 from American infrastructure that will create millions of jobs”

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

“Rather than searching alternatives, 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 invoice,”’ said Missouri Rep. Sam Graves, the top Republican on the transport 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 acceptance of a change to block cash from the invoice going to Chinese state-owned enterprises or companies responsible for building internment camps for the country’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 stated the bill”is biased from rural America,” relies on debt funding and also”fails to tackle the issue of unnecessary allowing delays” that have impeded infrastructure projects.

President Donald Trump has frequently announced his support for infrastructure projects and pledged throughout 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 these efforts have failed to lead to legislation.

Hopes were dashed last year after Trump said he wouldn’t deal with Democrats when they continued to investigate him. The House afterwards impeached him.

Trump said after signing a $2 trillion coronavirus relief package that low interest rates made it a fantastic time to borrow money to cover an infrastructure bill. Though the White House has indicated that an infrastructure component could be included by the next virus response invoice no formal proposal has surfaced\.

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 the proposition is”heavily skewed toward apps that would benefit America’s urban regions.” The bill would divert money from the Highway Trust Fund to transit and railroad projects that”have observed decreasing market shares in recent years,” the White House statement said.

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

The bill also authorizes $130 billion in college infrastructure geared toward high-poverty schools with amenities which endanger the health and safety of pupils and teachers, Democrats said. The schools portion could create more than 2 million jobs, they stated.

The bill would spend more than $100 billion to create or preserve at least 1.8 million affordable houses. “These investments can help reduce home inequality, create jobs and stimulate the broader market,” Democrats said in a”fact sheet” boosting the bill.

The measure also would update child care centers and secure access to safe drinking water from investing $25 billion at a state revolving fund that ensures communities have clean drinking water and eliminate 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 also Ben McAdams of Utah.

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