Washington, Aug 10 (EFE).- The US Senate, where Democrats hold the narrowest of majorities, on Tuesday approved a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill backed by President Joe Biden after months of negotiations between his party and the Republicans.
The bill passed by a 69-30 vote.
The initiative, which – if it comes to fruition – will be the largest investment in US public works in 10 years, will now move to the House of Representatives, where in recent weeks some Democratic lawmakers have criticized it, believing that it will founder there and never move on to Biden’s desk for his signature.
The proposal, which includes some $550 billion in new spending, is substantially smaller than the infrastructure plan initially presented by Biden last March, an initiative totaling $2.25 trillion.
Specifically, the package allocates more than $110 billion to repair highways, bridges and other roadways, and $66 billion to develop passenger and freight railroads.
This last investment would be the largest injection of funds into the US railway network in half a century.
The bill also provides $55 billion to deal with water supply problems, such as replacing all lead piping, and also includes $65 billion to modernize the electric grid.
In addition, it provides billions of dollars to revamp irrigation systems, upgrade airports and expand access to broadband.
The text of the bill also focuses attention on the fight against climate change and devotes $7.5 billion to create a network of recharging stations for electric vehicles around the country, this being one of Biden’s priorities.
Moreover, it provides $47 billion to deal with wildfires, droughts, coastal erosion and heat waves, among other such issues.
It is not expected that the infrastructure bill will get to the House until this fall, since the chamber is currently on its August recess.
In addition, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has promised not to push forward with the bill until the Senate gives the green light to her party’s $3.5 trillion budget proposal, which includes a social spending plan, the second leg of what progressives term US infrastructure.
Democratic senators are intending to approve the budget bill as quickly as possible, even this week, via a mechanism called “reconciliation,” which would allow them to move it forward with a simple majority instead of having to garner the votes of at least 10 Republicans in the Senate to assemble the 60 votes that would otherwise be needed.
Democrats want to use reconciliation because of their tight majority in the upper house – where both they and the GOP eacb hold 50 seats, although Vice President Kamala Harris, in her role as president of the Senate, could break a 50-50 tie.
But before bringing the budget initiative to a vote, the Senate will be the site of a marathon voting session on amendments to the bill’s text, a process that is expected to last at least until midnight on Wednesday.
As soon as the infrastructure package was approved, senators began voting to launch debate on the budget plan.