Infrastructure deal is proof that Congress can still do good, bipartisan work

“Compromise” is a dirty word in American politics these days. Yet, after months of bipartisan negotiations and difficult compromises, Republicans and Democrats came together to deliver a badly needed win for the American people this week — the bipartisan infrastructure bill.

It’s been Infrastructure Week in Washington for years now. But on Monday, the mission was accomplished. The bipartisan infrastructure framework (BIF), more formally known as the “Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act,” focuses primarily on hard infrastructure, with 60 percent of funds going toward maintenance for existing roads and bridges across the country. Importantly, more than 80 percent of Americans favor infrastructure funding: including roads, bridges and ports.

This bill was done the right way, with a robust negotiations process that brought key leaders from both parties to the table. Overcoming progressive House members’ attempt to hold the bill hostage, the Senate passed the bill with overwhelming bipartisan support (69 to 30). The 10 senators and their staff who worked tirelessly to get this legislation over the finish line should be applauded for their efforts.

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That’s why it is so unfortunate that this landmark legislation was paired with a reckless spending bill, championed by congressional progressives, from the very beginning. It passed the House on Friday. 

This pairing is a strategic misfire that has hurt overall BIF support. That does not take away, however, from the important measures included in the package, specifically when it comes to addressing climate change in this country. More than $100 billion in funds will go toward clean energy development and grid reliability. The bill includes historic natural resilience measures, thanks to Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), as well as funding for electric vehicle charging stations.

Anyone who is serious about addressing climate change should be excited about the passage of this legislation. Improving our nation’s infrastructure, promoting clean energy technologies and using the power of nature to fight climate change will yield far more results than the Green New Deal’s pipe dreams. 

The passage of BIF is yet another example of why steady incrementalism, rather than waiting for a silver bullet solution, is the right approach on climate. Targeted funding for specific, climate-related technologies will build bridges; radical domestic plans that ignore global emissions and hamper the economy and further polarize the public. That is why BIF was able to win support from both Democrats and Republicans — while the party-line budget reconciliation process has not only been shunned by the GOP, but even by members of the Democratic Party. 

With five Republican senators involved in negotiations and 13 House Republicans voting in the affirmative, this legislation simply could not have passed without GOP backing. Just like the Energy Act of 2020, Great American Outdoors Act and Growing Climate Solutions Act, this achievement is the product of pragmatic Republican action on the environment that the majority of Americans support. Republicans are becoming increasingly bold champions of our natural environment, promoting legislation that is measured by tons of carbon sequestered instead of total cash spent.

While the negotiation process seemed to take years, the infrastructure bill crossed the aisle — and the finish line. This moment is proof that not only can Congress still do good work for the American people, but that good work requires leadership from both parties.

Quill Robinson is the vice president of government affairs at the American Conservation Coalition. Follow him on Twitter: @QuillRobinson