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Biden signs $1 trillion infrastructure bill with bipartisan audience

By Ben Giles, Mark Brodie, Steve Goldstein, Lauren Gilger
Associated Press
Published: Monday, November 15, 2021 - 4:04pm
Updated: Tuesday, November 16, 2021 - 3:42pm

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President Joe Biden signed his $1 trillion infrastructure deal into law Monday on the White House lawn, hailing it as an example of what bipartisanship can achieve.

The president hopes to use the law to build back his popularity and says it will deliver jobs, clean water, high-speed internet and a clean energy future. Support for Biden has taken a hit amid rising inflation and the inability to fully shake the public health and economic risks from COVID-19.

A smattering of Republican lawmakers were on hand for what might be one the last celebratory displays of bipartisanship ahead of the 2022 midterm elections. 

“My message to the American people is this: America is moving again and your life is going to change for the better,” Biden said.

With the bipartisan deal, the president had to choose between his promise of fostering national unity and a commitment to transformative change. The final measure whittled down much of his initial vision to invest in roads, bridges, water systems, broadband, ports, electric vehicles and the power grid. Yet the administration hopes to sell the new law as a success that bridged partisan divides and will elevate the country with clean drinking water, high-speed internet and a shift away from fossil fuels.

“Too often in Washington — the reason we don’t get things done is because we insist on getting everything we want,” Biden said in his prepared remarks. “With this law, we focused on getting things done. I ran for president because the only way to move our country forward is through compromise and consensus.”

Biden held off on signing the hard-fought infrastructure deal after it passed on Nov. 5 until legislators would be back from a congressional recess and could join in a splashy bipartisan event. The gathering Monday on the White House lawn was uniquely celebratory with an upbeat brass band and peppy speeches, a contrast to the drama and tensions when the fate of the package was in doubt for several months. The speakers lauded the measure for creating jobs, combating inflation and responding to the needs of voters.

Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat who helped lead negotiations on the infrastructure plan, touted the historic investment in infrastructure and the funding it’ll bring to Arizona, like billions of dollars to strengthen water systems throughout the drought-stricken western states.

And she thanked the Republican and Democratic senators who helped negotiate the bipartisan framework for the bill.

“This is what it looks like when elected leaders set aside differences, shut out the noise and focus on delivering results on the issues that matter most to everyday Americans,” Sinema said.

Sen. Mark Kelly and Congressman Ruben Gallego, two more Arizona Democrats, also attended the signing ceremony.

Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican who worked closely in negotiations with Sinema and other senators, celebrated Biden's willingness to jettison much of his initial proposal to help bring GOP lawmakers on board. Portman even credited former President Donald Trump for raising awareness about infrastructure, even though the loser of the 2020 election voiced intense opposition to the ultimate agreement.

“The approach from the center out should be the norm, not the exception,” Portman said.

The signing included governors and mayors of both parties, such as Tucson Mayor Regina Romero and Mesa Mayor John Giles, and labor and business leaders. In addition to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the guest list included Republicans such as Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy, Maine Sen. Susan Collins, New York Rep. Tom Reed, Alaska Rep. Don Young and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan.

In order to achieve a bipartisan deal, the president had to cut back his initial ambition to spend $2.3 trillion on infrastructure by more than half. The bill that becomes law on Monday in reality includes about $550 billion in new spending over 10 years, since some of the expenditures in the package were already planned.

The agreement ultimately got support from 19 Senate Republicans, including Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell. Thirteen House Republicans also voted for the infrastructure bill. An angry Trump issued a statement attacking “Old Crow” McConnell and other Republicans for cooperating on “a terrible Democrat Socialist Infrastructure Plan.”

The bill also includes $65 billion for broadband access; much of that money will be sent out in the form of grants to states, although it will likely take some time before that happens. 

The Show spoke about this with Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of NTCA, the Rural Broadband Association.

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