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House approves $1.5T green infrastructure plan

House approves $1.5T green infrastructure plan
© Bonnie Cash

House Democrats on Wednesday passed a $1.5 trillion green infrastructure plan that would surge funding to repair the nation’s crumbling roads and bridges while setting aside funds for broadband, schools and hospitals.

The legislation was approved in a largely party-line 233 to 188 vote after the White House issued a veto threat. 

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump alludes to possible 2024 run in White House remarks Trump threatens to veto defense bill over tech liability shield Tiger King's attorney believes they're close to getting pardon from Trump MORE criticized it as “full of wasteful ‘Green New Deal’ initiatives,” and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPressure builds for coronavirus relief with no clear path to deal Top GOP senator warns government funding deal unlikely this week Criminal justice groups offer support for Durbin amid fight for Judiciary spot MORE (R-Ky.) has not expressed an interest in bringing it to the Senate floor. 

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“Naturally this nonsense is not going anywhere in the Senate,” the leader said on the Senate floor Wednesday.

Much of the $500 billion in transportation funding in the Moving Forward Act is tied to green measures that require states to set targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and make other climate conscious efforts.

“We are going to deal with the largest source of carbon pollution in the United States of America here and now, today, this week. We're starting,” House Transportation Committee Chair Peter DeFazioPeter Anthony DeFazioDemocrats ask GAO to study COVID-19 air travel risks Democrats were united on top issues this Congress — but will it hold? On the Trail: Five House results illustrate a politically divided America MORE (D-Ore.) said, noting that the legislation comes as the country faces a severe economic recession.

“We're going to need millions of good paying jobs, and these aren't just construction jobs. They’re design, they’re engineering, they’re small business, they're manufacturing. There's a host of people, everybody will be touched by this bill, and the investments will provide returns, many, many times over.”

The bill’s focus on carbon reduction efforts marks a significant shift in transportation funding. In addition to highway funding, it gears more money toward public transit, rewarding systems with more frequent service — a key metric for recruiting riders — rather than low operating costs.

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It includes a large suite of tax breaks for renewables and other clean energy efforts, and offers grant funding for zero-emissions buses, electrifying the postal service fleet, and retrofitting schools and other large buildings while offering up weatherizing assistance for homeowners.

Republicans have largely bristled over all the green measures and the expense of the package.

“The majority believes it's acceptable to put together a massive bill that's going to turn our transportation system upside down and add $1.5 trillion dollars in debt,” said Transportation Committee Ranking Member Sam GravesSamuel (Sam) Bruce GravesLawmakers say infrastructure efforts are falling victim to deepening partisan divide The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump, Biden blitz battleground states Hillicon Valley: Big Tech hearing the most partisan yet | Rubio warns about foreign election interference | Trump campaign site briefly hacked MORE (R-Mo.). 

“It's not really an infrastructure bill at all. It's a climate bill that doesn't even attempt to include consensus solutions to these issues, but instead bludgeons our transportation system, industries and workers into submission.” 

Democrats have argued that the country should take advantage of low interest rates to pay for the legislation, with House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPressure builds for coronavirus relief with no clear path to deal Top GOP senator warns government funding deal unlikely this week Houston will send residents checks of up to ,200 for pandemic relief MORE (D-Calif.) arguing at the bill’s unveiling that “there's never been a better time for us to go big.”

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While the green measures included in the transportation section have sparked the most debate, the bill sets aside considerable amounts of funding across nearly every sector — including $25 billion for drinking water, $100 billion for broadband, $70 billion for clean energy projects, $100 billion for low income schools, $30 billion to upgrade hospitals, $100 billion in funding for public housing and $25 billion for the postal service. An amendment added to the bill sets aside $4.5 billion to replace lead pipes leading into homes. 

The legislation came to the floor after a marathon Transportation Committee mark up that stretched over two days with Republicans repeatedly chastising Democrats for forwarding the bill without making a greater effort at including their ideas. 

Where other bipartisan efforts have repeatedly fizzled, however, Wednesday’s infrastructure bill is the first to pass the lower chamber.

“There have been seven infrastructure weeks, under the Trump administration,” DeFazio said. “This is the beginning of the real infrastructure week.”