House passes $1 trillion US infrastructure bill in historic win for Biden

Package set to fund roads, bridges, public transport and expanded broadband access

Representatives Pramila Jayapal and Josh Gottheimer outside the US Capitol. The House passed the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill after months of negotiations. Photo: Getty Images
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The House approved a $1 trillion US infrastructure package of road and other infrastructure projects after Democrats resolved a months-long standoff between progressives and moderates.

The bill was put on the floor on Friday evening. Thirteen Republicans, mostly moderates, supported the legislation while six of Democrats’ farthest left members — including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Cori Bush of Missouri — opposed it.

A breakthrough came as lawmakers rubber-stamped the Senate-passed infrastructure bill on the House floor by a comfortable 228 votes to 206.

The passage of the infrastructure spending marks a legacy-making achievement for Mr Biden, amid plunging personal approval ratings and a humiliating upset defeat for his Democratic Party in the Virginia governor's election.

His spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the success was “proof that delivering for the American people is worth all the painful sausage making”.

“Clean drinking water for kids, broadband access, electric vehicles, biggest investment in public transit. It's happening. And more to come,” she tweeted.

The House also voted for the “rule” providing for consideration of the Build Back Better Act.

Build Back Better focuses on social policies - including education, health care, housing and climate - and together with the infrastructure bill forms the centrepiece of Mr Biden’s agenda.

There have been weeks of negotiations, with at least six moderate members asking for adjustments to the cost and the inclusion of paid leave and lower prescription drug prices.

Their most recent request was for a cost estimate on the plan from the Congressional Budget Office. The moderates said they needed to see a full accounting of the economic effects of the plan. This will not be available for a week.

“If our six colleagues still want to wait for a [Congressional Budget Office] score, we would agree to give them that time – after which point, we can vote on both bills together,” Pramila Jayapal, a Washington representative, said.

Mr Biden had been making calls to representatives throughout the day.

“I’m asking every House member, member of the House of Representatives, to vote yes on both these bills right now,” he said.

Progressives initially blocked the infrastructure vote amid suspicion that Senate centrists would reject the Build Back Better bill as soon as they got their transport upgrades signed into law.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi refused to back down, insisting on the vote before the end of the day and offering an olive branch to the liberals – a procedural vote on the rule to at least get debate started on Build Back Better.

“I am urging all members to vote for both the rule for consideration of the Build Back Better Act and final passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure bill tonight,” Mr Biden said in a late evening statement.

“I am confident that during the week of November 15, the House will pass the Build Back Better Act.”

Build Back Better, on the other hand, does not have the Senate's blessing and is likely to be downsized significantly and put through further arduous votes in the upper chamber, even if it advances from the House.

“It will not be enacted as is. Everybody needs to sit with that and get comfortable with it,” Montana's democratic senator Jon Tester told Politico.

The votes capped months of tense negotiations on Capitol Hill since the Senate approved the infrastructure package in August, giving it rare bipartisan support in Washington's polarised political atmosphere.

Most House Republicans withheld their support, however, after former president Donald Trump threatened reprisals for helping to hand Mr Biden a political win.

By funding work on roads, bridges and ports and high-speed internet, the White House says that Build Back Better would create millions of high-paying jobs.

Updated: November 06, 2021, 5:19 PM