United States

President Joe Biden's sweeping infrastructure bill passed by U.S. Congress

Published : November 06, 2021 17:20 IST

The House of Representatives passed Biden's sweeping infrastructure bill, but Democrats were forced to call off another key vote on boosting social welfare. Photo: Jose Luis Magana/AP/picture alliance

A majority of lawmakers voted to approve Biden's $1.2 trillion package — setting up the president to sign it into law.

Lawmakers in the House of Representatives voted to approve President Joe Biden's sweeping infrastructure bill on the night of November 5, weeks after it received a bipartisan green light from the Senate. The move is a major political win for President Joe Biden — who hopes the bill and the millions of jobs is promises to bring will help boost his lagging approval ratings. The victory, however, was likely bittersweet for the president, as Democrats abandoned plans to vote on Biden's social welfare bill amid party infighting.

What's in the infrastructure bill?

With a vote of 228 to 206, lawmakers in the lower chamber of Congress voted in favor of the infrastructure bill. Around a dozen Republicans supported the measure, while half a dozen left-leaning Democrats opposed it. The move clears the way for Biden to sign the measure into law. The $1.2 trillion (€1.04 trillion) infrastructure bill would fund work on bridges, roads and expand high-speed internet — with the Biden administration saying it would create millions of jobs. After intense negotiations, Biden's infrastructure package received a bipartisan stamp of approval in the Senate in August.

What happened with the welfare bill?

The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives was also set to vote on the "Build Back Better" social bill, but had to delay the vote. Following pushback from a small group of moderate Democrats, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was forced to delay a vote on the "Build Back Better" bill. "We had hoped to be able to bring both bills to the floor today. Some members want more clarification... that [the welfare bill] is fully paid for and we honor that request," Pelosi, the chamber's top Democrat, told reporters.

The political infighting between moderate and progressive wings of the Democrats been a source of frustration for Joe Biden's administration as it seeks to deliver on domestic policy priorities. It had been unclear whether the infrastructure bill would come up for a vote in the House on November 5, after progressive Democrats initially signaled that they would vote against it. The party's progressive wing previously insisted that the two measures be passed together.

What are the sticking points on the welfare bill?

At least six moderate Democrats objected to the social welfare package, which is estimated to cost up to $1.85 trillion (€1.6 trillion). They say they want to wait for a full account of the economic impacts of the bill by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), voicing concerns over the cost of the bill. "If our six colleagues still want to wait for a CBO score, we would agree to give them that time — after which point we can vote on both bills together," Pramila Jayapal, who heads the 96-member Congressional Progressive Caucus, said in a statement.

Progressives say the measures outlined in the 2,100-page "Build Back Better" bill are needed. The sweeping package would include funding for healthcare and education as well as investments in welfare programs and combating climate change. The welfare bill would largely be paid for by raising taxes on large corporations and wealthy Americans — sparking resistance from Republicans and some moderate Democrats.

Where do things go from here?

Biden is expected to sign the infrastructure deal in the coming days. His "Build Back Better" bill, however, will have to wait. The report on the cost of the welfare bill by the CBO isn't likely to arrive for several days. Lawmakers are also planning to leave Washington D.C. next week for a break — meaning a vote on the bill would likely be delayed until the end of the month.

The political infighting has been a further hit to President Biden, who is looking to score a major political win with the passage of the two major domestic bills after weeks of falling approval ratings and disappointing showings in off-year gubernatorial elections in some typically left-leaning states this week.

rs/msh (AP, AFP)