Readers are undoubtedly familiar with the major issues facing voters on Election Day: the economy and inflation, crime, access to abortion, threats to democracy and immigration, among others. . Infrastructure is rarely, if ever, mentioned.
Still, “Democrats facing voters on Tuesday can boast a historic achievement from their two years in charge of Washington — a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that promises to rebuild the nation’s roads and bridges. , expand broadband service, put more electric vehicles on the road, and provide millions of Americans with cleaner drinking water,” write Tanya Snyder, Jordan Wolman, Annie Snider, John Hendel, and Eleanor Mueller for POLITICO two days before Election Day.
Biden signed the Infrastructure Act on November 15, 2021 [related Planetizen post], after it passed with broad bipartisan support in the Senate and just 13 GOP votes in the House. The measure, HR 3684 (117), was part of a series of costly legislative packages that plagued his administration – including a $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill [American Rescue Plan Act]$52 billion in grants for semiconductors and research and $300 billion for climate and energy initiatives [Inflation Reduction Act].
Polls show most voters have no idea Congress even passed the legislation — let alone that it’s already poised to provide tens of billions of dollars to projects such as railroad tunnels under the Hudson River, restoration work in the Everglades in Florida or the replacement of a bridge in Tennessee. Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers who opposed the bill were quick to praise and claim credit when their local projects get a cut of the money.
One of the main reasons for the lack of attention to the passage of the bill is the time it takes to innovate on specific projects. Additionally, the authors note that “[m]all spending decisions will fall to Republican governors who oppose Biden’s desire to use much of the money for projects that fight climate change or repair the legacy of racial discrimination.
To date, Washington has committed just $38 billion of the act’s $1.2 trillion to thousands of individual projects, including $69 million to reconfigure the Port of Alaska coastline in Anchorage and a $25 million bridge replacement in Chattanooga, Tennessee
“A partisan flashpoint was a December 2021 memo from the Federal Highway Administration that pressed state transportation plans [pdf] to avoid spending their new infrastructure money on widening freeways, saying they should instead make it a priority to repair and improve existing roads,” write Snyder, Wolman, Snider, Hendel, and Mueller.
The administration argued that this approach will make transportation safer while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Sixteen GOP governors blasted the effort in a letter to Biden as “a clear example of federal overreach. [pdf]noting that the guidelines include restrictions that were intentionally omitted from the final bill.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg later admitted under fire from Republicans during congressional hearings that the memo’s suggestions were not binding.
As for Congressional Republicans who voted against the bill’s passage by taking credit for infrastructure projects in their districts, they say “that once the law is enacted and the grant money is available, it was their responsibility to advocate for their communities to get their share.”
Hats off to POLITICO Playbook.