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Politics: Lawmakers scramble to get pet projects funded under infrastructure plan

Sen. John Thune claims only 6% of Biden bill is actual infrastructure

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As Democrats work to turn President Joe Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure outline into a concrete plan, lawmakers are scrambling to ensure projects helpful to their own states make it into the final cut of the bill.

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Members of the House and Senate are pushing to get a cut of the massive federal spending package directed toward home-state tunnels, highways, train routes, and more.


Meanwhile, Republicans and Democrats are still debating how to pay for the sprawling plan. Biden met Monday at the White House with a bipartisan group of lawmakers to debate whether to raise the corporate tax rate to pay for the bill, as the White House suggested, as well as some of the things that might make it into the final legislation.

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Here are some examples of the kinds of pricey projects that could get funding under the plan.


New York and New Jersey lawmakers from both parties have spent years trying to score federal funds for a tunnel connecting their two states by rail under the Hudson River.

But conservatives on Capitol Hill have long fought to stop taxpayer money from flowing to a regional project from which most people wouldn’t benefit. Facing a potential government shutdown in 2018, former President Donald Trump even threatened to veto an entire omnibus spending bill if it included any money for Gateway.

Funding for the expensive project is likely to end up in the infrastructure package, however. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New Yorker, has already said the tunnel is “ripe for funding from the president’s jobs plan.”

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Trump and conservatives opposed funding Gateway in the past because they said New York and New Jersey had not directed enough of their own state funds toward the project. A Republican congressional aide told the Washington Examiner that some GOP members are likely to resist an influx of funding for Gateway.

Biden’s infrastructure blueprint sets aside $80 billion for Amtrak repairs, $85 billion to modernize and expand transit systems, both of which could be categories under which the Gateway project could fall.


Lawmakers in Biden’s home state of Delaware have pushed Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to prioritize a project that would put an “urban park” on top of a roof they would like to see built over Interstate 95.

“We are proposing a cap on I-95 in order to help heal our city and to reconnect communities that were disconnected by the construction of a highway through neighborhoods in less affluent areas,” some Delaware Democrats wrote in a letter to Buttigieg in February.

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Biden’s infrastructure plan sets aside $20 billion specifically for “a new program that will reconnect neighborhoods cut off by historic investments” and mandates that projects funded under the program “advance racial equity,” making the Wilmington park a potential candidate for funding.

Proponents of this kind of infrastructure investment argue many highways were built decades ago without regard to the surrounding communities and often cut through communities of color, isolating them.


Golden State lawmakers are likely to push for funding that could help finish construction of a rail line that, if fully funded through completion, could stretch from Sacramento to San Diego.

Buttigieg has said the project could receive some funding from the final version of the infrastructure package.

Local experts said the infrastructure package could be a “lifeline” for the project, which has been in the works for years. But the estimated price tag for a Los Angeles to San Francisco high-speed line has ballooned to $100 billion, and it has already faced delays and construction challenges that could complicate lawmakers’ efforts to argue it deserves more federal funding.

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Amtrak published a map of proposed new routes shortly after Biden unveiled his infrastructure outline late last month; the map included a rail line running from Las Vegas to Los Angeles.

The idea is popular with local officials because so much tourism in Las Vegas comes from Southern California.

The project could cost $8 billion to complete, according to some estimates, and local news outlets have reported a flurry of interest from state-level officials in pursuing funding for a project that was delayed in part due to the pandemic.


The Congressional Progressive Caucus said a survey of its 95 left-wing members revealed the five proposals that should be prioritized for funding in the package, but none were actual infrastructure projects.

The liberal lawmakers said a $450 billion investment into home-based care services and paid family leave was the top priority, followed by $115 billion in affordable housing programs, a legislative push to lower prescription drug prices, an investment in “climate jobs,” and a pathway to citizenship for several different groups of immigrants.


Biden’s proposal included a number of policy priorities that had little to do with the traditional understanding of infrastructure, sparking pushback from Republicans who already considered the price tag on the plan too high. In addition to the bridges and tunnels lawmakers will try to get funded in the bill, progressive lawmakers are likely to push for the social programs the White House has tried to pass off as infrastructure.

Tags: News, Infrastructure, Pete Buttigieg, Corporate tax, White House

Original Author: Sarah Westwood

Original Location: Lawmakers scramble to get pet projects funded under infrastructure plan

The politics of going big .
Women and people of color were crucial to Biden’s presidential win, and they’re crucial to his jobs plan.Taken together, President Joe Biden’s $2.25 trillion American Jobs Plan and newly introduced $1.8 trillion American Families Plan come out to slightly over $4 trillion in proposed new spending. It’s an enormous investment in American job creation; the last bipartisan infrastructure bill Congress passed in 2015 clocked in at about $305 billion — about one-thirteenth the size of Biden’s proposed plan. And Obama’s $800 billion stimulus plan of 2009 was about one-fifth of Biden’s plan, not even taking into account the $1.

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