The Senate passed a bipartisan infrastructure bill Tuesday that would provide $550 billion in new funding to repair America’s rural roads, ports and waterways, while dramatically increasing high-speed internet access.
“This is a strong and bold accomplishment,” Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said before the bill passed, 69-30. Nineteen of the Senate's 50 Republicans voted for the bill, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
When reauthorized spending programs are taken into account, the bill's total cost comes to about $1.2 trillion. The legislation includes $110 billion in new funding for roads and bridges and $65 billion to expand broadband. There is about $73 billion for clean power transmission as well as additional funding for ports and waterways and $66 billion for passenger and freight rail improvements.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said he was glad to see funding for broadband as well as locks and dams in the bill. "It’s so important to schools, to health, to farming, you know,” referring to the need for rural broadband access. However, Grassley told reporters he wished there was funding for biofuel infrastructure in bill.
Under the bill, the largest portion of the broadband funding would be routed through states. About $2 billion would go to the Agriculture Department for its rural broadband programs.
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The bill also includes $8.3 billion for Western water needs. Some $3.2 billion is allocated for aging infrastructure and $1.2 billion for water storage, groundwater storage and conveyance projects. The bill also would provide $618 million over five years for the Agriculture Department's watershed programs.
The future of the bill is unclear in the House, however. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has insisted that her chamber won't take up the infrastructure bill unless the Senate also passes a partisan, budget reconciliation package that will include up to $3.5 trillion for other Democratic spending priorities.
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