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Manchin, Capito Support Procedural Vote as Senate Moves Ahead on Infrastructure

President Joe Biden speaks during a visit to the Lehigh Valley operations facility for Mack Trucks in Macungie, Pa., Wednesday, July 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

CHARLESTON — After months of negotiations, first with U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito and later with a group including U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, a procedural vote on a bipartisan infrastructure framework passed Wednesday night with more than the 10 Republican votes needed to begin debate.

Manchin, D-W.Va., along with several of the Republicans and Democratic senators who negotiated the bipartisan infrastructure framework, held a press conference Wednesday evening after the cloture vote to begin discussion of the bill, now called the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

“We have not made a major investment in infrastructure of the United States in the last 30 years,” Manchin said. “Bipartisan is built because of relationships. Relationships are built when there is trust. The more we continue to do things such as this, the more you’ll see more bipartisanship.”

The cloture motion passed 67-32 with 17 Republicans voting yes, avoiding a filibuster. President Joe Biden praised the bipartisan group of senators for coming together to make a deal. The bill is loosely based on Biden’s American Jobs Plan unveiled in April.

“This deal signals to the world that our democracy can function, deliver, and do big things,” Biden said in a statement Wednesday. “As we did with the transcontinental railroad and the interstate highway, we will once again transform America and propel us into the future.”

According to a summary of the plan released by the White House, the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act includes $550 billion in new federal spending on traditional infrastructure projects, estimated to create more than 2 million jobs per year over the next decade.

The bill includes $110 billion for new roads, bridges, and other major projects, as well as reauthorize the surface transportation program for the next five years based on the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act of 2021 passed by Capito’s Environment and Public Works Committee in June. The bill also includes $11 billion for transportation safety programs.

One of the hang-ups during negotiations was the final price tag for public transit projects. The new agreement includes $39 billion for buses, passenger rail and train stations, and modernization and accessibility projects. Another $66 billion would be invested in Amtrak maintenance and modernization.

With electric vehicles becoming more common on American highways, $75 billion would go towards build-out of electric vehicle charging stations. Another $7.5 billion would pay for a switchover to zero emission busses, low emissions buses, and ferries.

Other provisions include $17 billion for port infrastructure; $25 billion for airports; $50 billion. For water resiliency and western water infrastructure; $55 billion for clean drinking water infrastructure and lead pipe replacement; $65 billion for high-speed broadband infrastructure; $21 billion for environmental remediation projects; and $73 billion for power grid resiliency projects and clean energy research.

The bill is not paid for through tax hikes. Instead, the bill includes several different pay-fors, including recouping fraudulent unemployment insurance benefits, unused COVID-19 relief dollars and unused pandemic unemployment funds, delaying Medicare Part D rebates, miscellaneous fees, and an estimated $56 billion in economic growth due to a return in investment in the bill’s infrastructure projects.

“We’re touching every element of infrastructure … this is what is bringing us together, knowing we can do something that is needed for so long,” Manchin said. “Everyone has worked so hard. This is a job that is well done, but there is still a lot to do. We will get his done.”

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is largely built on initial negotiations between President Biden and a group of Republican U.S. Senators led by Capito, R-W.Va., between April and June. When those talks broke down, focuses shifted to a new bipartisan group of senators, including Manchin.

An attempt last Wednesday to pass a procedural vote to begin discussion of the bipartisan infrastructure framework failed to reach 60 votes when negotiators couldn’t come up with an agreement in time. Capito voted no last week because the deal was not finalized, but after reviewing the details of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act on Wednesday, Capito said she could support moving forward with the procedural vote.

“I am glad to see the bipartisan group’s infrastructure legislation focuses on the core elements of infrastructure,” Capito said. “After reviewing some of the legislative text of the bipartisan infrastructure package and ensuring West Virginia’s and the nation’s core infrastructure needs will be addressed, I plan to support the procedural vote to move this package forward.”

The bill includes elements of both the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act of 2021 and the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act of 2021 – both bills that passed unanimously out of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee where Capito is the ranking Republican member.

“The bipartisan group’s package is built around our two bipartisan and unanimously committee-passed bills,” Capito said. “The inclusion of our bills in the package means West Virginia will receive funding for programs and areas I have long-supported like roads, bridges, water and wastewater projects, construction of the Appalachian Development Highway System (ADHS), and more.”

Discussions continue on a separate $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill that includes most of Biden’s American Families Plan. Bills passed through the budget reconciliation process only need a simple 51-vote majority. The framework includes funding for universal Pre-Kindergarten, childcare subsidies, paid family and leave, child tax credits, increases in Pell Grants, as well as other Democratic wish list items, such as the union-friendly PRO Act.

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