Senate Passes $1T Infrastructure Bill With $3.5T Reconciliation Next Up

Graphic by Annabel Driussi for ODP

by Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer

Yesterday, the U.S. Senate passed a $1 trillion infrastructure bill with overwhelming bipartisan support. The vote is a significant win for the Biden administration, although not without compromises needed to attract Republican support. The original bill called for $2.3 trillion in spending, but Democrats made substantial concessions during negotiations that decreased funding for lead pipe replacement, transit, and clean energy projects.

The bill still faces a long road ahead; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says that the House will not vote on the bill until the Senate passes a separate $3.5 trillion budget resolution–though it’s unclear if more moderate Democratic senators will support a spending package this large.


Why This Matters: This infrastructure package is part of President Biden’s $4 trillion economic agenda and includes provisions for climate adaptation measures, clean energy, modernizing the nation’s power grid, and more programs that will help the country reach net-zero emissions by 2050. The bill’s passage has now opened the door for an even larger $3.5 trillion budget package that is expected to include many climate policies, including a fee on methane emissions and a carbon border adjustment. The budget resolution is set to enter reconciliation in the coming days. Still, Congress is working on a tight climate deadline, made even more urgent by the release of an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report earlier this week. Advocates hope that both bills can quickly become finalized to serve as the basis for the increased  U.S. commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement in the lead-up to the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow this November.


Post-Negotiations: The final Senate bill results from months of grueling negotiations between Senate Republicans and Democrats. Although Democrats made significant concessions, the package will provide unprecedented funding for climate-related programs. The bill includes:

  • $73 billion to modernize the nation’s electricity grid
  • $7.5 billion for electric vehicle charging stations
  • $17.5 billion for clean buses and ferries
  • $15 billion for removing lead pipes

Additionally, the bill includes provisions for restoring and protecting some of the nation’s most precious waters, bringing the President one step closer to protecting 30% of all U.S. lands and waters by 2030. The projects funded include:

  • $1 billion for the restoration of the Great Lakes
  • $24 million for restoration of the San Francisco Bay
  • $106 million for the Long Island Sound
  • $238 million for the Chesapeake Bay

What Comes Next: The passage of those policies now relies on the passage of a $3.5 trillion budget proposal set to enter reconciliation this week. According to a memo, the budget resolution currently contains a “Clean Electricity Payment Program” that would set energy efficiency and clean electricity standards, which National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy has previously called “non-negotiable.” The reconciliation package is also expected to include a fee on methane emissions and a carbon border adjustment. Reconciliation talks are not likely to have a potential carbon tax, a policy supported by many companies but one with little appetite in Washington.

Overall, these two bills will represent the federal government’s most significant climate action investments to date. These are investments are crucial to stave off climate change, create jobs, and safeguard Americans from pollution. However, as the road to Glasgow, and the road to 1.5 degrees of warming, grows shorter, the passage of both of these bills becomes all the more urgent. To prevent catastrophic temperature rise, these packages must be quickly signed into law and the sum of their parts must be great enough to reach net-zero emissions in the next four decades.

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