WASHINGTON — The House passed a long-awaited bipartisan infrastructure plan late Friday, sending a package of billions in funding for the country’s decaying roads and bridges to President Joe Biden’s desk.
The legislation, known around the Hill as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework, or BIF, had been held hostage in recent weeks as Democrats debated a separate social spending package, called Build Back Better. But the infrastructure bill passed after a group of moderates won over enough progressives by committing to vote for the social programs bill no later than the week of Nov. 15.
“The whole day was a clusterfuck,” said Rep. Mark Pocan, a progressive, before the vote. “But beyond that...I thought everyone was working in a very congenial way. Rank-and-file members figured out how to get shit done.”
The bill passed 228–206 shortly before midnight. Six Democrats broke with their party to vote against the plan, and 13 Republicans broke with theirs to vote for it.
The $1 trillion infrastructure bill is a significant, and desperately wanted, legislative success for Biden, having already passed the Senate in a bipartisan vote in August. It includes $550 billion in new spending, while the rest is made up of repurposed funds. The legislation includes more than $100 billion for roads, bridges, and other “major projects”; $39 billion for public transportation; $66 billion in rail investments; $7.5 billion in subsidies for electric vehicles; and $65 billion aimed at bolstering broadband internet across the country.
For weeks, progressives had insisted that infrastructure and Build Back Better be passed in tandem, fearing that centrists might kill the social spending bill on its own. Build Back Better includes several progressive priorities, including billions in funding for childcare and for fighting climate change.
But on Friday night, progressives relented after a full-day push from Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. In exchange, a group of centrists who had been shaky on the social spending plan signed a statement promising to support it after the Congressional Budget Office releases a full cost analysis, if that analysis backs up one already released by the White House, or by the week of Nov. 15.
Democrats spent all day in negotiations. Biden separately had long calls with centrist and progressive members urging them to come to an agreement. The president put a point on the deal with a statement at 9 p.m. Friday “urging” House members to vote to pass the infrastructure plan and saying he is “confident” Build Back Better will pass the House “during the week of November 15.”
Biden’s call for Congress to make moves on the legislation came after the party suffered major losses on Election Day earlier this week, taking a walloping in the Virginia gubernatorial race and nearly losing the governor’s race in New Jersey as well, which was considered a safe seat for the party. Several members of Congress attributed the less-than-encouraging results to the fact that lawmakers in Washington have failed to pass either bill after weeks of negotiations.
“Dems blew the timing,” Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine told reporters earlier this week.
In a rare joint appearance while the vote was taking place, Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal and moderates leader Rep. Josh Gottheimer told reporters outside the Capitol that they have an agreement. Gottheimer praised Jayapal for “working so closely together.” And Jayapal said, “We will have the votes to pass Build Back Better."