Utah’s four Republican congressmen voted against the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill the House approved late Friday, a bipartisan deal Utah GOP Sen. Mitt Romney helped negotiate.
After months of Democratic bickering over the ambitious spending plan, it passed 228 to 206, with 13 Republicans voting in favor of the measure to make significant investments in the nation’s roads, bridges, railways and broadband internet.
Romney said the bill will better position Utah to meet transportation challenges, mitigate drought conditions, prepare for and respond to wildfires, extend broadband to rural communities and fulfill critical water needs.
“In stark contrast to Democrats’ efforts to pass a separate bill to drastically expand social programs, the bipartisan group I worked with proved that it’s possible to achieve solutions without raising taxes or adding trillions to the national debt,” he said.
The bill represents $550 billion in new spending, including about $3 billion that would flow to Utah to construct, rebuild and maintain roads and highways. It includes $214 million for running water to homes on the Navajo Nation, $219 million for a state water revolving fund and $50 million for the Central Utah Project. Hundreds of millions of dollars would also be headed to Utah for broadband expansion, wildfire management and mitigation and public transit.
Romney urged President Joe Biden to sign the legislation, which passed the Senate in August, “without delay” so the country can modernize its physical infrastructure, address supply chain issues, and show that even in polarized times, Congress can still come together.
Biden said Saturday that the vote was a “monumental” step forward, and that he would sign the bill into law next week, according to NPR.
“We did something that’s long overdue, that has long been talked about in Washington, but never actually been done,” he said.
Six progressive Democrats voted against the plan because a larger social spending measure failed to get enough support for a floor vote on Friday. They wanted to pass the infrastructure bill and Biden’s $1.75 trillion safety net package at the same time. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., intends to hold a vote on that bill later this month.
In the end, Romney was the only member of Utah’s all-Republican delegation to vote for the infrastructure bill. Sen. Mike Lee voted against it in the Senate.
Rep. Blake Moore, R-Utah, praised the bipartisan group of senators who worked on the bill, saying it shows Republicans and Democrats can work together to deliver results. But he said he couldn’t vote for it because it’s linked to the social spending package.
“Speaker Pelosi has said it; President Biden has said it; progressive and moderate Democrats have said it, and while Democrat posturing and angling continues, I must take them at their word,” Moore said.
“Democrats are using passage of the infrastructure bill as a way to help internally advance their egregious $1.75 trillion tax-and-spend package.”
While acknowledging the infrastructure deal includes many provisions that benefit Utahns, Moore said he can’t take the risk that his vote would help advance Pelosi’s “fiscal tragedy” in any way. The social spending plan, he said, would hurt Utah businesses, lower wages, export jobs abroad and consolidate power in Washington.
“The reconciliation bill mindlessly dumps billions of dollars into aged government programs we already know aren’t working,” Moore said. “Undisciplined spending threatens our national security, raises prices, taxes the working class, and destroys jobs.”
The measure also “dangerously” expands the size and scope of the federal government at Utah’s expense, funds abortions with taxpayer money, and raises taxes on job creators and Utah families, he said.
“I will do all in my power to ensure it does not pass into law,” Moore said.
Rep. Burgess Owens, R-Utah, agrees the country needs to invest in roads, bridges, airports, and mass transit systems that improve the quality of life for fast-growing states like Utah, “but this fiscally irresponsible tax-and-spending spree operating under the guise of infrastructure is not the way forward.”