What’s in the Senate infrastructure bill for Illinois; rocky road ahead in Congress for Democrats

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to hold House progressives, will not take up the Senate infrastructure legislation until the Senate approves the companion “human infrastructure” bill.

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President Joe Biden delivers remarks on infrastructure spending at McHenry County College on Wednesday, July 7, 2021, in Crystal Lake, Ill.

Evan Vucci/AP file photo

If — and it’s a big if — the House approves the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill the Senate passed Tuesday, Illinois is in line to receive more than $15 billion for projects, according to the White House and Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, both Democrats.

The Senate measure faces a rocky road ahead in the House, as progressive Democrats are poised to demand more.

“This bipartisan bill makes once-in-a-generation investments in public transit, passenger rail, drinking and waste water, broadband, and roads and bridges. It also expands electric vehicle infrastructure and battery research to help usher in an era of zero-emission vehicles. Illinoisans from Chicago to Cairo will see the tangible impacts of this bill and the jobs it will create,” Durbin said in a statement.

The measure, bolted together by a group of 10 centrist Democratic and Republican senators navigating the politics of the 50-50 Senate, passed on a bipartisan 69-30 roll call, a big win for President Joe Biden and his “Build Back Better” agenda if a bill ever gets to his desk to sign.

Early Wednesday morning, on a 50-49 party line vote, the Senate passed a Democratic-authored companion $3.5 trillion budget resolution with the rest of Biden’s agenda, so sweeping when it comes to provisions for the climate, education and health care that it has been compared to the historic New Deal.

But that’s not the final vote and it’s not clear all 50 Senate Democrats will continue to stick together on the second megadeal, nicknamed the “human infrastructure” package.

The two measures are linked in part because Biden’s window of opportunity in the Congress is quickly closing. Democrats, who barely control the Senate and are in charge of the House with only a four or five vote Democratic margin, could easily lose their majorities after the 2022 midterm elections.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to hold House progressives, will not take up the Senate infrastructure legislation until the Senate approves the “human infrastructure” bill which has absolutely no chance of passing if the GOP controls the House or Senate.

In the Senate, moderate Democrats Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have power because of their threats to defect and they already said the $3.5 trillion price tag is too high.

A mere handful of progressives in the House have similar outsized leverage – and they will demand passing both massive bills in tandem, since they know the congressional clock is ticking and this is their best and maybe only shot.

Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, D-Ill., one of those progressives, said in a statement, “The infrastructure package is flawed. It reinforces the status quo and does not contain the transformative change in policies we need to address the transportation inequities communities of color face nor does it substantively address the urgent climate crisis. I will continue to fight in the House of Representatives to improve it so we make the policy choices and scale of investments we need.”

Another progressive, Rep. Marie Newman, D-Ill., said in a statement, “In the coming weeks, Congress can make a down payment not only in hard infrastructure through this bipartisan legislation but also in social, human, and climate infrastructure through the reconciliation process, which is happening simultaneously. 

“That’s why I look forward to the Senate sending both this bipartisan infrastructure bill to the House as well as a big and bold reconciliation package that makes real investments in climate action, housing, Medicare expansion and ensures a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, TPS holders, essential workers, and farmworkers.”

All that said, here’s what’s in the Senate infrastructure bill for Illinois. According to Durbin, Duckworth and the White House, Illinois could get over a five-year period:

*Public transportation, $4 billion.

*Federal highway programs, $9.8 billion.

*Bridge replacement and repairs, at least $1.4 billion. As Biden noted when he was in Crystal Lake in July to promote the infrastructure bill, Illinois has 2,374 bridges and over 6,218 miles of highway in poor condition.

*Broadband, at least $100 million to provide more coverage and help low income Illinoisans afford internet service.

*Electric vehicles, $149 million for expanding the electric charging network in Illinois and maybe more if entities in Illinois win competitive grants from a $2.5 billion pot of money to develop charging options.

*Duckworth’s Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act — to replace miles of dangerous lead pipes in Chicago and the rest of the state is also part of the 2,700-page bill as are her proposals to make transit stations more accessible to the disabled.

*Airport improvements, $616 million.

*Cyberattack protection, $22 million.

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