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November 23, 2021 4:00 PM, EST

US Senate to Debate Social Infrastructure Build Back Better Budget

Schumer Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced a deadline of Christmas to pass the measure. (Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg News)

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Senators returning to Capitol Hill after the Thanksgiving recess are scheduled to kick off debate on a nearly $2 trillion budget package that aims to promote severe-weather resilience and reduce congestion across mobility networks.

After a procedural review process, the House-passed Build Back Better Act will be called up for consideration in the Senate. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced a deadline of Christmas to pass the measure via a fast-track budget reconciliation process.

“The House has taken an important step to advance President [Joe] Biden’s Build Back Better plan that will dramatically lower costs and cut taxes for middle-class families, and fight the climate crisis while creating good-paying jobs,” said Schumer soon after House passage of the bill. “We will act as quickly as possible to get this bill to President Biden’s desk.”

The president, who proposed key elements of the measure, has called on Congress to clear the budget bill for his signature this year. Shortly after the House vote, Biden said, “It makes the most significant investment in our fight against the climate crisis ever by creating jobs that build a clean energy future for our children and grandchildren.”

The House on Nov. 19 passed the Build Back Better Act by a vote of 220 to 213. Specific to transportation, it would fund grants designed to augment resilience along commercial supply chains. It also would pave the way for programs that install zero-emission equipment and technology.

Under the bill, $600 million would be dedicated to the Maritime Administration for projects that would reduce congestion at ports. The U.S. Department of Transportation would receive $300 million to develop and apply low-emission aviation technologies. Additionally, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration would receive nearly $50 million for states to ensure equity in traffic safety enforcement.

The bill also promotes myriad low-emission programs, transit services and clean energy projects in low-income areas, as well as funding for climate change research.

“The Build Back Better Act represents the single largest action the United States has ever taken to address climate change,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman. “Importantly, it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector, the number one source of carbon pollution in the nation. I urge the Senate to pass this legislation without delay so we can create good-paying jobs and cut costs for all Americans.”

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chairman of the surface transportation panel, said he was proud that the legislation is “turning adversity into opportunity” with investments that will reduce emissions, and, “unleash our potential to lead the world in clean energy production.”

Sen. Tom Carper

Carper

Senators are expected to pursue changes to the measure via the fast-track budget reconciliation process that requires a simple majority for passage in the upper chamber. Democratic leaders say they aim to ensure support from their caucus, which stands at 50 members. It remains unclear whether Democrats Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona will endorse the House-passed package.

Senate Republicans, meanwhile, are unified in their opposition to the Build Back Better Act. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) referred to the Democrats’ agenda as a “huge blow to American competitiveness.”

“Democrats make sure to look out for the ultra-wealthy on the coasts. A super-majority of them get tax cuts. I’m almost impressed our colleagues have found a way to be this out of touch,” said McConnell.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), chairman of his caucus’s policy division, said, “Gas prices, heating bills, and grocery costs are all skyrocketing, and the Democrats are determined to make inflation much worse by spending trillions of taxpayer dollars. Their plan includes billions of dollars to hire an army of IRS agents, gives millionaires in New York and California a massive tax cut, and sticks families in Wyoming with the bill.”

He added, “House Democrats’ reckless tax and spending spree will meet a buzz saw of resistance in the Senate.”

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