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Republicans have cut down President Biden's ambitious $2 trillion infrastructure plan after it was unveiled this spring, and lawmakers from both parties are trying to move quickly towards an agreement before leaving Washington for their month-and-a-half-long summer recess.
The U.S. Senate approved a $1.2 trillion infrastructure spending plan on Tuesday, with the measure sent to the House of Representatives for final approval after even leading Republican senators including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham voted in favour.
The measure will almost certainly pass in the House, as Democrats enjoy the majority. The Senate, however, is split 50/50 between Republicans and Democrats, meaning the rare bipartisan consensus on Tuesday is crucial. The bill passed with 69-30 support.
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi previously threatened to hold up the bill in the House if the Senate does not similarly approve a $3.5 trillion budget plan including funding for climate change, access to health care and education, and other key issues. Republicans expressed concerns that the $6 trillion+ in spending already pumped into the system amid the coronavirus pandemic over the past year-and-a-half could destabilise the economy by causing heightened inflation.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the infrastructure bill was a piece of "historic" legislation that would "deliver huge benefits [including] millions of jobs to the American people."
"It will deliver clean water and high-speed internet to every household in the country. It will help us tackle the climate crisis by electrifying scoolbuses, building electric vehicle chargers across the station, upgrade our power infrastructure to be resilient against natural disasters. And it will rebuild roads and bridges and modernize America's airports, rail and public transit systems," Psaki said.
Our Caucus has been clear: Congress must invest in infrastructure that takes on the climate crisis and meets the needs of working families.
CPC members won't support a bipartisan bill without a bold reconciliation bill to advance our priorities. pic.twitter.com/ptM06hKt1s
President Biden's originally envisioned $2.3 trillion in infrastructure spending, which on top of roads and bridges also included proposals to fund private home environmental efficiency improvements and other non-public infrastructure outlays.
The infrastructure bill comes amid ongoing contentions between the two parties on raising the public debt. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned Congress in July that "irreparable harm" would be caused if the debt ceiling was not raised by the beginning of August. Just last week, the Treasury invoked "extraordinary" emergency cash-saving measures to prevent the U.S. from defaulting on its tens of trillions of dollars in debt.
U.S. federal debt hit $28.5 trillion in June; if including federal liabilities plus other public and private obligations, it rises to over $85 trillion— more than four times the U.S.'s annual GDP.
U.S. legislators will leave for their month-and-a-half-long recess this week and return to work in mid-September.