US senators upbeat on prospects for $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill

The U.S. Senate is set to tackle the details of the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, backed by President Joe Biden, to rebuild America’s roads, ports and bridges. Both Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, were upbeat about the road ahead on the bill, which was brokered by Senate negotiators and White House officials.

Joseph Schofer, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Northwestern University, believes this bipartisan agreement has all the ingredients for success, and “it’s about time.” Professor Schofer is especially looking forward to the transition to renewable energy that this bill will facilitate.

“Beyond renewable energy, doing a better job of interconnecting the electric grid is going to protect us from some of the natural hazards that we’re suffering from now: the extreme heat, extreme cold…” Professor Schofer’s biggest concern is sustainability and long-term jobs, raising the question “how will this change the structure of the economy?” Mr. Schofer acknowledges that the change will be there, but does not expect the change to be massive.

Now one very positive aspect of the infrastructure bill is “it’s money to restore the infrastructure to a state of good repair.” Though the challenge will be to “sustain the quality and the condition and the performance of the infrastructure going forward.” And that will be key to “avoid getting behind schedule in the future.”I haven’t heard of any amendments that would be poison pills. So I think people are interested in getting to yes here, even if they didn’t vote for the bill tonight,” Portman told reporters after Wednesday’s vote.

Portman said he hoped there would be plenty of time allowed for amendments so members’ concerns are heard. “We want to get a strong vote because we need to send it over to the House, like a torpedo, with plenty of bipartisan support,” he said.

The bill must also pass the House of Representatives, where Democrats have a thin majority. Some senior Democrats there, including Representative Peter DeFazio, chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, have expressed concern that the bill lacks sufficient climate measures.

“If they send it over here in early August it will sit. It will sit for a very long time, which would give us a chance to engage the experts” before taking action, DeFazio told reporters.