Biden signs $1 trillion infrastructure bill into law
President Biden on Monday signed into law a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill at a boisterous ceremony outside the White House, sealing a major accomplishment of his first term.
Weeks of talks and two trips to the Capitol from Biden culminated earlier this month in a bipartisan vote, with the House passing the bill 228-206. Thirteen Republicans crossed the aisle to support the measure, and six progressive Democrats bucked Biden and party leaders to oppose it.
Biden welcomed lawmakers from both parties, from Congress and from state and local governments, to celebrate the passage of the bill and tout what he said were the transformational ways it would improve day-to-day life for many Americans.
“My message to the American people is this: America is moving again and your life is going to change for the better,” Biden said in prepared remarks, highlighting provisions for replacing lead pipes, implementing broadband and improving public transit.
Biden used the bill signing to highlight a rare instance of bipartisanship at a polarized time in U.S. politics, even as former President Trump and other conservatives suggested that House Republicans who voted for the bill should be challenged in primaries or stripped of committee assignments.
“I ran for president because the only way to move our country forward, in my view, is through compromise and consensus,” Biden said. “That’s how our system works. That’s American democracy. And I am going to be signing a law that is truly consequential, because we made our democracy deliver for the people. We compromised. We reached a consensus. That’s necessary.”
It was a jovial mood even as the White House faces inflation, uncertainty over the second half of its economic agenda and a looming standoff over the debt ceiling. The crowd chanted “Joe!” as Biden took the stage. Disney-esque music played as attendees waited for the program to start. After the event, which took place on a chilly fall afternoon in Washington, attendees were given hot beverages.
White House officials are hopeful that the bill’s passage will be a boon to Biden’s sinking approval numbers with a year to go until the 2022 midterm elections. Biden is scheduled to travel to New Hampshire and Michigan on Tuesday and Wednesday to highlight specific projects that will benefit from the legislation.
Hundreds of federal, state and local lawmakers joined Biden at the White House, including Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and outgoing New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D).
Portman and Sinema, who led the infrastructure negotiations, as well as Pelosi and Schumer delivered remarks ahead of Vice President Harris and Biden.
The Senate had passed the bill in August, with 19 Republicans joining Democrats to move it to the House. The legislation languished there for weeks as progressives sought assurances on the other key piece of Biden’s economic agenda: a social spending bill focused on climate, child care and health care programs that Democrats intend to pass without GOP support through budget reconciliation.
The $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, which contains roughly $550 billion in new funding, will provide for new investments in roads, bridges and railways around the country. White House officials have also said it will allow for the replacement of lead pipes to provide clean drinking water to communities, establish a network of electric vehicle charging stations and help expand internet access for swaths of the country that do not have it.
Biden has tapped former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu (D) as a senior White House adviser to coordinate the implementation of the bill, which cuts across several government agencies.
Democrats hope that officials will be able to get some projects up and running quickly so the public feels the impact of the legislation, which could help Biden and his party politically ahead of the midterms.
Biden’s approval ratings have been sinking for several weeks and it’s unclear thus far whether the president will see a bump from the infrastructure bill becoming law.
A new Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted after the infrastructure bill passed the House found that 41 percent approve of Biden’s handling of the presidency, while 53 percent disapprove, a new low for Biden. At the same time, the infrastructure bill and Biden’s climate and social spending package remain popular.
Attention will now shift to the fate of a $1.75 trillion proposal that contains many of the priorities addressed in Biden’s Build Back Better agenda, including funding to combat climate change, efforts to expand health care access and child care assistance, and money toward education and housing programs.
“This bill, as significant as it is, as historic as it is, is part one of two,” Harris said, to applause from the crowd. “The work of building a more perfect union did not end with the railroad or the interstate, and it will not end now.”
If the House passes the reconciliation bill, it will likely be tweaked in the Senate, where Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has expressed reservations about moving too quickly with such a major piece of legislation.
Pelosi expressed optimism at Monday’s event that the House could advance the reconciliation bill as early as this week.
While no Republicans are expected to support the second piece of legislation, Trump and some of his allies have attacked the GOP lawmakers who crossed the aisle to vote for the $1.2 trillion bill, even as infrastructure has long been viewed as an area of bipartisan agreement.
Portman, who is not running for reelection in 2022, took a thinly veiled swipe on Wednesday at those in his party who have framed bipartisanship as a negative.
“The American people want to see us coming together. They know that despite our differences, we should be able to figure it out and work together to solve big problems,” Portman said. “We can start by recognizing that finding common ground to advance the interests of the American people should be rewarded, not attacked.”
Updated at 5:09 p.m.