House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) touted Thursday a new infrastructure plan being put forth by Democrats.
Clyburn told Hill.TV that the comprehensive plan aims to expand broadband internet to “100 percent” of the United States, effectively getting rid of “digital deserts” — or areas without a single internet service provider.
“No matter how many schools you build, those schools are not going to be effective unless the students are connected to the rest of the world, and that can only be done with broadband deployment,” Clyburn said during an interview that aired Thursday.
“Same thing with health care — rural hospitals are closing all over,” he added. “We want these rural hospitals to stay open and stay valuable. The only way you can do that: broadband deployment.”
More than 120 rural hospitals have closed in the U.S. since 2010, according to data collected by the University of North Carolina. Those hospital closures have had a direct impact on rural communities, which tend to have less access to health care. A 2019 study found that hospitals closures in California alone have increased mortality rates by 5.9 percent.
Clyburn’s comments come after House Democrats on Wednesday unveiled a $760 billion plan aimed at funding infrastructure investments over the course of five years. The plan includes $329 billion for roads and bridges and $86 billion for expanding broadband internet.
However, Democrats didn’t specify how they plan on paying for the proposal, maintaining that they will not propose a way to pay for it unless they reach a deal with the White House.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) maintained that a bipartisan deal on how to pay for the proposal is the best way forward “so there’s not one-upmanship.”
President Donald Trump has made infrastructure a top priority since taking office in 2016, but it’s unclear whether his administration will work with House Democrats on a funding agreement.
In February 2018, the White House unveiled a long-awaited $1.5 trillion infrastructure package aimed at overhauling U.S. public works. A few months later, Trump and Democrats agreed on a separate plan, upping the investment to $2 trillion. However, both efforts collapsed due to a failure to agree on how to fund the plans.
— Tess Bonn