Can Biden Succeed Where Predecessors Fell Short?

As President Biden unveils a sweeping $2 trillion infrastructure and jobs plan, there are hopes he will succeed where Obama and Trump failed. This massive package aims to overhaul America’s roads, bridges, ports, and transit system, while also supporting electric vehicles and renewable clean energy, boosting manufacturing, and creating millions of good-quality jobs.

American Jobs Plan

The White House notes this ambitious proposal “will invest in America in a way we have not invested since we built the interstate highways and won the Space Race.” As part of the “Build Back Better” agenda, the first package includes $621 billion for roads, highways, bridges and waterways. There are plans for additional investments for electric vehicles, broadband internet expansion, and infrastructure that is more resilient to climate change. Other proposed funding includes $400 billion earmarked for care for the elderly and people with disabilities; $300 billion toward building and retrofitting homes, and $300 billion for innovation and research.

The administration says the infrastructure spending will help “modernize more than 20,000 miles of highways, roads and main-streets.” It also doubles federal spending to repair the worst of 10,000 smaller bridges, replace thousands of buses and rail cars, repair hundreds of stations, renew airports, and expand transit and rail into new communities.

Not an easy road ahead

Congress must approve the plan and while top Democrats, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, are likely to make passage a priority, fellow Democrat Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, “This is not nearly enough. The important context here is that it’s $2.25T spread out over 10 years.” The Congressional Progressive Caucus called for $10 trillion in federal infrastructure spending over the next decade.

The nonpartisan American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) also says inadequate investment funding remains a concern. The nation’s infrastructure received a C- grade on the latest ASCE report card, suggesting an investment of $2.59 trillion by 2025 should instead be the goal.

Republicans are voicing concern saying the plan goes too far and they hope to shrink the spending. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called the plan a “Trojan horse”  he is “not likely” to support.

Others argue that the bill shouldn’t include social programs or allow for “catch all funding.” As Rep. Sam Graves, the top Republican on the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee stated, “A transportation bill needs to be a transportation bill, not a Green New Deal. It needs to be about roads and bridges.”

“We know that 80% or more of people in this country, Democrats and Republicans, support investing in infrastructure,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. In fact, Pew surveys found more than eight out of 10 Americans want our nation’s roadways built to withstand extreme weather; 85% endorse requiring that federally funded structures in flood-prone areas be designed to better withstand flooding. ASCE reports that 80% of Americans support rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure more than almost any other top issue facing the current Administration.

The United States ranks 13th globally in infrastructure quality, down from fifth in 2002. “We think that these are investments that we, as a country, cannot afford not to make,” an administration official told reporters. “This plan reflects the president’s commitment to recognizing the moment that we are in as an important moment to demonstrate that the United States and democracies can deliver for the people that they serve and that the stakes of this moment are high, the world is watching.”

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