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Democrats detail their $1.5T green infrastructure plan

Democrats detail their $1.5T green infrastructure plan
© Bonnie Cash

House Democrats on Monday released new details about their $1.5 trillion green infrastructure plan slated to come to a vote as early as next week.

The legislation, unveiled Thursday, would funnel hundreds of billions of dollars toward transportation and broadband, along with investments in schools and hospitals, with requirements to reduce emissions and clean up industry woven throughout the bill.

“This is the largest tax investment in combating climate change Congress has ever made,” House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard NealRichard Edmund NealTrump's lawyers seek clarity about how tax-return case will proceed following Biden inauguration IRS says start of tax filing season delayed until Feb. 12 On The Money: Twenty states raise minimum wage at start of new year | Trade group condemns GOP push to overturn Biden victory | Top Democrat: Georgia runoffs will influence push for ,000 checks MORE (D-Mass.) said when the bill was first announced.

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The legislation, much like House Democrats’ latest coronavirus stimulus package, may not be taken up in the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump selects South Carolina lawyer for impeachment trial McConnell proposes postponing impeachment trial until February For Biden, a Senate trial could aid bipartisanship around COVID relief MORE (R-Ky.) has expressed resistance to addressing infrastructure through a pandemic relief measure. 

The bulk of the 2,300 page Moving Forward Act is geared toward transportation, a $500 billion tab that requires states to account for climate change before undertaking projects and meet certain greenhouse gas emission goals when they accept funding.

Beyond building new roads and bridges, the legislation commits significant funding for public transportation, favoring systems that have success reducing congestion and that expand access in low income neighborhoods. It would also shift funds to systems that offer more frequent service — a key metric for recruiting riders — rather than low operating costs.

Mixed in with grants for zero-emissions buses, electrifying the postal service fleet, and allowance of electronic driver’s licenses is funding for university research into implicit bias training for police officers to prevent racial profiling during traffic stops.

The transportation portion of the bill has already proven to be the most controversial, with Republicans arguing they were sidelined from crafting the policies. 

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“We were not given the opportunity to address any of our priorities in this legislation,” Rep. Sam GravesSamuel (Sam) Bruce GravesCommerce Bank joins companies halting support for officials who opposed Biden transition READ: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results Lawmakers say infrastructure efforts are falling victim to deepening partisan divide MORE (R-Mo.), the ranking member on the committee, said when the bill was first introduced, arguing it “will leave rural America even further behind, and numerous new green mandates and extreme progressive goals are woven throughout.”

Transportation Committee Chairman Peter DeFazioPeter Anthony DeFazioTackle injustice, tax Wall Street Southwest Airlines says it won't furlough workers after Trump signed relief bill Infrastructure? Not unless the House rethinks its offer MORE (D-Ore.) has described the bill as “the application of the principles of the Green New Deal,” showing it is possible to deal with climate change and create jobs at the same time.

The $100 billion broadband portion, spearheaded by Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Rep. Fred UptonFrederick (Fred) Stephen UptonUpton becomes first member of Congress to vote to impeach two presidents The Hill's Morning Report - Trump impeached again; now what? Kinzinger says he is 'in total peace' after impeachment vote MORE (R-Mich.), dedicates the bulk of its funding — $80 billion — to bringing broadband access to rural and otherwise underserved areas.

Other grant funding would give money for wifi on school buses, expanding mobile hotspot access through schools and libraries, and funding digital equity programs to ensure people of diverse backgrounds have access to the internet.

The bill also contains a number of direct environmental measures, including efforts to boost electric vehicle charging stations across the country.

The legislation contains a number of tax credits for renewables — something long pushed for by both Democrats and green groups — as part of the $70 billion in spending on renewables.

An energy efficiency section of the bill sets aside money to retrofit schools and other large buildings while offering up weatherizing assistance for homeowners. It also sets aside money to cap abandoned oil and gas wells and establishes a grant program to reduce methane leaks from pipelines and drilling activity. 

Infrastructure bills have repeatedly failed to gain traction in Congress since the early days of the Trump administration.

The upper chamber has already pushed a highway bill through committee, and many members are interested in expanding broadband access.

While House Republicans have complained about their exclusion along with the bill’s green measures, Senate opposition might be more squarely focused on the price tag.

“Nothing we’re doing right now is fiscally responsible,” Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziSenate swears-in six new lawmakers as 117th Congress convenes With Senate at stake, Georgia is on all our minds Wyoming mask mandate backed by GOP lawmakers goes into effect MORE (R-Wyo.) said last week after President TrumpDonald TrumpIran's leader vows 'revenge,' posting an image resembling Trump Former Sanders spokesperson: Biden 'backing away' from 'populist offerings' Justice Dept. to probe sudden departure of US attorney in Atlanta after Trump criticism MORE once again floated the idea of a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan.