Fri, 23 Apr 2021

WASHINGTON D.C.: Looking beyond the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, President Joe Biden and other lawmakers are establishing the foundations of a new legislative priority, which includes the upgrading of the nation's roads, bridges and related infrastructure, which could witness Republican resistance due to the hefty price tag.

Biden and his team have begun discussions with members of Congress on a new infrastructure package, in light of Texas' recent struggles with power and water shortages after a brutal winter storm, which could create an opportunity for agreement on sustained infrastructure spending.

Republicans stressed that if the White House approach to the COVID-19 relief bill is a sign of things to come for Biden's infrastructure plan and other initiatives, it could lead to a difficult road ahead in Congress.

A White House proposal could be released in March.

"Now is the time to be aggressive," said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

Much of America's infrastructure is in need of major upgrading after years of underfunding, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers, which gave the national infrastructure an overall grade of D+ in its 2017 Infrastructure Report Card.

Both chambers of Congress are expected to use their unsuccessful efforts to pass infrastructure bills during the last session as their starting points.

Democrats passed a $1.5 trillion package in the House last year, but it failed when it was not supported by the Trump administration and the Republican-led Senate.

During the presidential campaign, Biden pledged to allocate $2 trillion for infrastructure and clean energy, but the White House has not ruled out further spendings.

Gina McCarthy, Biden's national climate adviser, told the Associated Press that Biden's plan will focus on green initiatives and related programs that will help create jobs.

"He has been a long-time fan of investing in infrastructure," Jen Psaki (White House Press Secretary) said on Thursday.

Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), recently told the White House that he is ready to use a budget maneuver known as "reconciliation" to pass a broad economic recovery package with only Democratic votes.

"They made a conscious decision to not include us," said Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La), on Sunday.

"Republicans remain willing and are working on issues that require bipartisan cooperation," he told CNN.

West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican who will help draft legislation in the Senate, noted that there is bipartisan support for ambitious infrastructure programs.

Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Rep. Peter DeFazio, told the AP that he foresees a comprehensive House package that will go beyond roads, bridges and public transport.

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