Biden Hails Passage of Infrastructure Plan as 'Monumental Step Forward'

© REUTERS / JONATHAN ERNSTU.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks after late-night passage of a $1 trillion infrastructure bill to repair the nation's airports, roads and bridges, at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S. November 6, 2021.
U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks after late-night passage of a $1 trillion infrastructure bill to repair the nation's airports, roads and bridges, at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S. November 6, 2021.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 06.11.2021
The House passed the president's $1 trillion+ infrastructure bill on Friday evening, putting an end to months of deadlock and bickering inside the Democratic Party caused by disagreement about just how much to spend on the separate but related Build Back Better social and climate change spending agenda.
President Joe Biden has hailed the passage of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, calling it a "monumental step forward" for America.
"Finally, infrastructure week," Biden joked as he appeared before reporters at the White House on Saturday, flanked by Vice President Kamala Harris.
"Folks, I don't think it's an exaggeration to suggest that we took a monumental step forward as a nation," the president said. "We did something that's long overdue, that long has been talked about in Washington, but never actually been done. The House of Representatives passed an Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act."

"That's a fancy way of saying 'a bipartisan infrastructure bill. A once-in-a-generation that's going to create millions of jobs, modernizing infrastructure - our roads, our bridges, our broadband, a whole range of things; to turn the climate crisis into an opportunity," Biden said.

The president suggested that the passage of the bill puts the United States on a path to "win the economic competition of the 21st century" against China and the rest of the world, through "the most significant investments" in passenger rail in 50 years, in roads and bridges in 70 years, and "more investment in public transit than we've ever, ever made, period."
The spending will also modernise America's ports and airports, and freight rail, helping to relieve supply chain bottlenecks, according to Biden.

Seeking to alleviate fears that the $1 trillion + in spending, on top of the trillions already spent over the past year-and-a-half to battle the economic crisis caused by Covid lockdowns, Biden promised that the funds would "ease inflationary pressure, not increase lowering costs for working families."

He also suggested that the spending commitment to replace lead water pipes would allow "every American, every child" to drink clean water and improve their health while "putting plumbers and pipefitters to work."
Biden indicated the infrastructure package's commitment to building 500,000 charging stations for electric vehicles nationwide would allow the US to meet its international commitments on climate change.

"We'll get America off the sidelines on manufacturing, the manufacturing of solar panels, wind turbines, battery storage, energy and power for electric vehicles, from school buses to automobiles. And we'll reward companies for paying good wages and for getting materials for their products from right here in America. And America exporting and providing the rest of the world with these technologies which are generated here in the United States," Biden insisted.

The president said he and Harris would formally sign the infrastructure bill "soon," but did not specify a date.
Biden promised that his separate $1.75 trillion social and climate-related Build Back Better spending programme would also be passed, in both the House and Senate, in the coming weeks. He reiterated his earlier claims that BBB would not raise the deficit "by a single penny," suggesting it would actually reduce the deficit over the long term, with corporations and wealthy Americans making over $400,000 a year made to "pay their fair share." This bill too will "ease inflationary pressures," according to the president.
Biden's infrastructure bill passed on Friday night by a vote of 228 to 206, with Republican support proving crucial as 13 GOP lawmakers voted in favour, and six Democrats from the progressive 'Squad' voted against it.
Biden isn't the first president to attempt to pass a large scale infrastructure spending agenda. His predecessor, Donald Trump, repeatedly compared US infrastructure to that of a "third-world country," both on the campaign trail and in office. However, Trump spent the majority of his four years in power bogged down defending against (now debunked) claims that he was a 'Russian agent'. In 2018, he presented a $200 billion infrastructure plan, but Democratic lawmakers opposed it due to its emphasis on state and local funding and private investment - the source of which was deemed unclear. In 2020, talks on a separate infrastructure plan were put on hold by the Covid pandemic, with Republican leaders expressing scepticism about new infrastructure spending in light of trillions of dollars in other commitments for banks, corporations and one-time bailout cheques to ordinary Americans.
The passage of Biden's infrastructure bills comes in the wake of as much as $6 trillion in spending being poured into the economy over the past year-and-a-half, which has caused a noticeable spike in inflation and led to fears that US federal debt may be reaching critical levels. Last month, Congress increased the US debt limit into December after warnings from the Treasury that a failure to do so might cause the country to default on its $28 trillion+ in obligations. Notwithstanding warnings about this mountain of debt, the White House and Congress continue to push forward trillions in new spending, including a $706 billion military budget for fiscal year 2022.
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