Biden signs $1.2T infrastructure bill: ‘America is moving again’

President Joe Biden (3rd-R) talks to Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) (2nd-R) as Senate Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) (R) and Vice President Kamala Harris (L) look on after signing the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act as he is surrounded by lawmakers and members of his Cabinet during a ceremony on the South Lawn at the White House on November 15, 2021 in Washington, DC. The $1.2 trillion package will provide funds for public infrastructure projects including improvements to the country’s transportation networks, increasing rural broadband access, and projects to modernize water and energy systems. | Alex Wong/Getty Images

Updated, 6:43 p.m. 11/15/21, 7:34 a.m., 11/16/21

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Monday signed into law his $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill during a ceremony at the White House packed with some 800 supporters, heralding what he said was a “truly consequential” spending bill that will improve Americans’ day-to-day lives.

“The signing of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will lead to the biggest infrastructure investment in American history, create millions of good-paying, blue collar jobs, while helping us fix even more roads and bridges, expand high-speed internet, replace lead service lines and build electric vehicle chargers across Michigan,” said  Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. “I cannot wait to put the billions of dollars that we will get under this plan to work in Michigan as we stay laser-focused on putting Michiganders first, growing our economy, creating jobs and driving down costs.”

But Democrats also emphasized that there is more to come — a $1.85 trillion social spending measure that still faces a close final vote in the U.S. House and  major changes in the evenly divided Senate, where passage will have to come without GOP support.

Biden said the infrastructure legislation— backed by nearly all congressional Democrats, as well as 19 Senate Republicans and 13 House Republicans — is a signal that polarized public officials in Washington can come together to create jobs and solve long-lingering problems.

“My message to the American people is: America is moving again. And your life is going to change for the better,” Biden said during the South Lawn ceremony attended by federal and state legislators, governors, mayors, labor leaders, business leaders, and other supporters.

The signing marked a significant victory for the president’s economic agenda.

But the tougher step still looms, as Democrats attempt to rally their narrow majorities to pass the accompanying bill that would spend trillions more on new programs to expand access to childcare and preschool and combat climate change.

Two senators critical to reaching agreement on the infrastructure plan, Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, joined Biden on stage for the bill signing and spoke ahead of the president’s remarks.

“Our legislation represents the substantive policy changes that some have said are no longer possible in today’s Senate,” Sinema said. “How many times have we heard that important policy can only happen on a party line? Our legislation proves the opposite.”

Portman also lauded the bipartisan work involved in approving the infrastructure measure, saying the deal became possible after the group of lawmakers involved in negotiations agreed to shrink the package down to physical infrastructure — and separate out Biden’s proposals for new social and climate-change programs.

“Mr. President … you and I will disagree on the tax and spending (provisions) in the other priority you have, the reconciliation bill, but I think we can both agree that this infrastructure investment shouldn’t be a one-time bipartisan accomplishment,” said Portman, who is retiring at the end of his term next year.

“This should be the beginning of a renewed effort to work together on big issues facing this country,” Portman added.

In his remarks before signing the bill, Biden praised Portman, as well as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, (R-Ky.), who voted for the bill but did not attend Monday’s ceremony.

The new law, Biden said, is “proof that despite the cynics, Democrats and Republicans can come together and deliver results.”

U.S. Reps. Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly), Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn), Dan Kildee (D-Flint) and Haley Stevens (D-Rochester) were in attendance, as was U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.).

Rep. Elissa Slotkin talks to reporters after her town hall at Oakland University | Laina G. Stebbins

“This bill is going to guarantee a steady, years-long stream of good-paying jobs for our engineers and construction workers, many of whom I met with last week to discuss the details. It will boost our economy and rebuild our state at the same time, and I’m looking forward to traveling all over the District to talk with folks directly about all the benefits our workers, small businesses and families will see. Getting this bill signed is a huge win for Michigan and a great step forward for the whole country,” Slotkin said in a statement.

Bipartisan members of the U.S. House and Senate who attended the bill signing also included, according to news releases and social-media posts:

  • Sinema and Democratic Arizona Rep. Ruben Gallego
  • Sen. John Hickenlooper, (D-Colo.), and Democratic Colorado Rep. Ed Perlmutter
  • Democratic Florida Reps. Val Demings and Debbie Wasserman Schultz
  • Georgia’s Democratic senators, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, and Democratic Georgia Rep. Lucy McBath
  • Rep. Cindy Axne, (D-Iowa)
  • Sen. Bill Cassidy, (R-La.)
  • Sen. Susan Collins, (R-Maine), and Democratic Maine Rep. Chellie Pingree
  • Democratic Maryland Rep. Kweisi Mfume
  • Democratic Nevada Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen and Rep. Susie Lee
  • New Jersey Democratic Reps. Josh Gottheimer and Tom Malinowski
  • Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, (D-Ga.)
  • Portman and Democratic Ohio Reps. Joyce Beatty and Marcy Kaptur
  • Pennsylvania Reps. Susan Wild, Brendan Boyle, Dwight Evans, Madeleine Dean, Mary Gay Scanlon and Conor Lamb, all Democrats
  • Virginia Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, and Reps. Don Beyer and Jennifer Wexton, all Democrats

Also on hand were governors from Pennsylvania, Maine, New Mexico and Louisiana.

Provisions of the new law include $110 billion to repair and rebuild roads and bridges; $90 billion for public transit; and $66 billion for passenger rail improvements.

Airports and ports also will see an infusion of federal funding, as will the country’s electric grid.

Billions more will pay for electric vehicle charging stations and the purchase of buses and ferries that run on electricity.

Another $65 billion will go toward expanding access to broadband internet access across the country, a provision touted during the signing ceremony by Donneta Williams, president of the United Steelworkers Local 1025 at a Wilmington, N.C., plant producing optical fiber needed for broadband upgrades.

“To paraphrase one of my favorite former vice presidents, it’s a big effing deal,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, (D-N.Y.)

Before heading to the White House, U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat who was among the 10 senators who wrote the bill, told reporters on a press call that the signing was the culmination of several months of negotiation.

“This is one of the best days I’ve had in Washington, D.C.,” Tester told reporters. “This is something that, for six months we met and we argued and we fought and we worked and in the end we got something that is the biggest non-emergency investment in infrastructure in our nation’s history.”

The legislation drew some bipartisan support in both chambers. But the 13 House Republicans who joined Democrats in support of the bill have faced backlash for that vote from constituents and some of their colleagues.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, (R-Ga.), tweeted that they were “traitors,” and posted their office phone numbers. As the Advance reported last week, U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) received a threatening voicemail afterward.

“I hope you die. I hope everybody in your f—ing family dies,” the caller said in the voicemail. The caller also called Upton a “f—ing piece of s–t traitor.”

‘I hope you die,’ caller tells Upton in voicemail left after infrastructure vote

GOP opponents of the measure have decried it as part of a “spending spree” by Democrats.

“Tennesseans want real infrastructure investment, not frivolous left-wing programs that add to our nation’s debt,” Sen. Marsha Blackburn, (R-Tenn.), fumed in a press release ahead of the bill signing, slamming it as the “gateway” to the human infrastructure bill Democrats are still seeking to pass.

A half-dozen progressive House Democrats also opposed the physical infrastructure bill.

Those “no” votes included U.S. Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit), Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Cori Bush of Missouri, who wanted the $1.85 trillion social safety net and climate bill, known as “Build Back Better,” to be voted on at the same time as the infrastructure bill.

House Democrats have voted to set the terms of debate over the social reform package, and have aimed to hold a final vote as soon as this week.

“This is a great accomplishment, and there’s more to come,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, (D-Calif.), said at the White House.

Environmental advocacy groups and their allies in the Congressional Progressive Caucus also have sought to present the infrastructure bill and the $1.85 trillion social spending plan as a package deal.

“This is scene one of a two-act play,” Manish Bapna, the president and CEO of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement. “It sets the stage for Congress to pass the Build Back Better Act. That’s the centerpiece of President Biden’s strategy to drive equitable recovery with climate action in a moment the country urgently needs both.”

Asked about the social spending and climate bill, Tester stressed that it and the physical infrastructure bill are separate measures.

His priorities in the larger spending plan include making child care more accessible and affordable, providing federal housing funding and addressing climate change, he added.

During Monday’s ceremony, Vice President Kamala Harris also framed the two infrastructure bills as a set that is to be completed.

“This legislation, as significant as it is, as historic as it is, is part one of two,” Harris said. “Congress must also pass the Build Back Better Act.”

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Laura Olson
Laura Olson

Laura covers the nation's capital as a senior reporter for States Newsroom, a network of nonprofit outlets that includes Michigan Advance. Her areas of coverage include politics and policy, lobbying, elections, and campaign finance.

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Ariana Figueroa
Ariana Figueroa

Ariana covers the nation's capital for States Newsroom. Her areas of coverage include politics and policy, lobbying, elections and campaign finance. Before joining States Newsroom, Ariana covered public health and chemical policy on Capitol Hill for E&E News. As a Florida native, she's worked for the Miami Herald and her hometown paper, the Tampa Bay Times. Her work has also appeared in the Chicago Tribune and NPR. She is a graduate of the University of Florida.

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Jacob Fischler
Jacob Fischler

Jacob covers federal policy as a senior reporter in the States Newsroom Washington bureau. Based in Oregon, he focuses on Western issues as well as climate, energy development, public lands and infrastructure.

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Susan J. Demas

Susan J. Demas is a 21-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 4,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 70 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.

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