Romney, bipartisan infrastructure group reach agreement on $1 trillion bill. What will it do?
The largest investment in infrastructure in nearly a century passed a procedural vote Wednesday night in the U.S. Senate
After months of negotiation, a group of 10 senators reached agreement on a bipartisan infrastructure package, and it passed a procedural vote to move forward discussions in the Senate Wednesday night. The proposed framework would be the largest investment in American infrastructure in nearly a century.
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, one of the 10 lawmakers involved in the bipartisan negotiations, praised the bill as “good legislation with good policy,” noting that the bill is evidence that Congress can find compromise on meaningful legislation.
“I think it’s also important for the country to see that Washington can work — Republicans and Democrats can work together and come up with something that’s bipartisan,” Romney told a group of reporters Wednesday afternoon. “It’s not perfect, but let’s not let perfection be the enemy of the good.”
President Joe Biden echoed Romney’s sentiment. “This deal signals to the world that our democracy can function, deliver, and do big things,” an official White House statement said. “As we did with the transcontinental railroad and the interstate highway, we will once again transform America and propel us into the future.”
The White House also emphasized that this bill would be the largest federal investment in public transit, clean energy transmission and clean drinking water ever; the largest federal investment in passenger rail since Amtrak, 50 years ago; and the largest dedicated bridge investment since the construction of the Interstate Highway System, over 60 years ago.
The bill includes $550 billion in new spending over the next five years, a decrease from the $579 billion announced last month when the same group of senators met with Biden and announced they found an agreement. Romney explained that in drafting the legislation, two parts were removed: one relating to transit that Republicans opposed, and a $20 billion “infrastructure bank,” scrapped by Democrats.
Romney is adamant that the package is paid for without raising taxes, and it will not add to the national deficit or debt. The largest source of funding will come from reallocating funds from prior federal projects that were never used. Romney is also optimistic about the increased economic activity that could come from improved physical infrastructure — the Congressional Budget Office estimates around $50 billion in additional tax revenue, Romney said.
The bill is not without its critics. On Monday, former President Donald Trump released a statement hammering the bill’s Republican negotiators, calling them “RINO Republicans.” On Wednesday, he released another statement: “Hard to believe our Senate Republicans are dealing with the Radical Left Democrats in making a so-called bipartisan bill on ‘infrastructure,’ with our negotiators headed up by SUPER RINO Mitt Romney. ... It is a loser for the USA, a terrible deal, and makes the Republicans look weak, foolish, and dumb.”
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who has led efforts on the infrastructure deal, has spoken with Trump and encouraged him to support the bill. The proposed investments are consistent with many of Trump’s goals during his White House tenure, Portman said, and would be “a victory for the American people,” not for one party or the other.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, was among 33 senators — all Republicans — who voted against the infrastructure package in a procedural vote Wednesday. “We are already seeing skyrocketing costs for things we need every day,” Lee said in a statement. “Housing, food, gasoline, and electricity are all becoming more expensive in large part because the federal government keeps spending more money than it has. ... What our state needs is for the federal government to get out of the way and let Utahns do what we do best — work hard and care for our families.”
As the Senate debates the bipartisan physical infrastructure proposal, Democrats are discussing a separate, $3.5 trillion budget plan on “human infrastructure” — including funding universal pre-kindergarten, expanding Medicare and caregiving for the disabled and elderly and launching climate conservation initiatives — that Romney calls “a Democrat spending and tax extravaganza.” Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., said today that she doesn’t plan to support that bill in its current state, delivering a major blow to Democrats’ hopes of reaching 50 Senate votes. “There’s not one Republican, so far as I know, in either the House or the Senate, that will vote for the Democrat $3.5 trillion bill,” Romney said.
With Democrats in control of both the House and the Senate, a bipartisan agreement is essential, Romney said. “If we don’t get this bill done, the Democrats are going to do one on their own, without any Republican support,” he said. “It won’t be a bipartisan infrastructure bill, it will be a partisan bill. And it will be a bank-breaking extravaganza.”
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include Sen. Mike Lee’s statement on the infrastructure proposal.