Other Voices: The bipartisan infrastructure package

Published 11:59 pm Tuesday, November 23, 2021

The passage of President Biden’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan, after months of wrangling and tough negotiating, is good news for everyone — or certainly should be.

Our infrastructure has required attention for some time now, as we were first warned decades ago, when roads began failing and bridges began falling.

And now, thanks to Biden’s deal, which was signed into law last week, we’ll finally receive structural repairs and improvements that will put us on a better platform to grow our economy and compete with other nations.

Here are some highlights of the bill’s provisions:

• $110 billion to repair 173,000 total miles of America’s highways and major roads and 45,000 bridges that are in poor condition.

• $39 billion to expand transportation systems, improve accessibility for people with disabilities and buy zero-emission and low-emission buses.

• $7.5 billion for electric vehicle charging stations and $5 billion for the purchase of electric school buses and hybrids, reducing reliance on school buses that run on diesel fuel.

• $65 billion for broadband access to improve internet service for rural areas, low-income families and tribal communities.

• $65 billion to improve the reliability and resiliency of the power grid — while boosting carbon-capture technologies and more environmentally friendly electricity sources like clean hydrogen.

• $55 billion for water and wastewater infrastructure — including $15 billion to replace lead pipes and $10 billion to address water contamination from known pollutants.

Many of the provisions have climate change mitigations baked in. This is entirely reasonable, as we witness more and more extreme weather events that affect the American people in adverse ways.

The deal is expected to bring billions in investments to North Carolina, both our urban and rural areas.

“The jobs created by this legislation are jobs that cannot be outsourced. They will be performed here in the United States of America,” Rep. Deborah Ross of N.C.’s 2nd Congressional District said during a news conference Monday in Raleigh. “It will boost all of our workers, from the folks who pave the roads to the scientists and engineers who are designing 21st century transportation networks, water and sewer systems and cutting-edge electrical grids.”

We’ll likely see about $400 million for highways and $90 million for bridges, Transportation Secretary Eric Boyette said.

And the broadband access will especially help with both education and commerce in our state’s rural areas. “Broadband isn’t a luxury,” Rep. David Price of N.C.’s 4th District said. “Broadband expansion has to be, for this century, what rural electrification was for our parents and grandparents in the last century.”

Even though the deal received bipartisan support — 19 Senate Republicans and 13 House Republicans voted for it — its passage won’t please everyone. Some Republican firebrands have been portraying it in hyperbolic terms as an undesirable victory for their political foe, President Biden. The word “traitor” has been tossed at their fellow Republicans more than once.

Among the critics are North Carolina native son and former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who, during an interview last week, said that the 13 House Republicans who backed the bill should be removed from their committee assignments.

That’s just wrong. Whomever Meadows is loyal to, it’s not the North Carolinians who will benefit from these investments.

Many of the Republicans who worked with Democrats to pass the bill are more moderate in their approach to legislation, hoping to serve the country as a whole — especially in the face of a rising China — rather than exhibit fealty to the candidate who lost the last presidential election. They include Reps. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois and Fred Upton of Michigan (the recipient of crude death threats following his vote); as well as Sens. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana; Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky (who said he was “delighted” by the deal); Lindsey Graham of South Carolina; Rob Portman of Ohio; Mitt Romney of Utah; and our own Richard Burr and Thom Tillis. Cooler, calmer heads prevailed, demonstrating why we should elect more.

It is a victory for Biden. It’s also a victory for his vision of bipartisanship. Best of all, it’s a victory for the American people as we compete to be the world’s marketplace, strive to provide our children with a world-class education and set the stage for a prosperous and peaceful future.

— Greensboro News & Record