House passes infra bill

The US House of Representatives has finally passed President Joe Biden’s flagship infrastructure bill, with bipartisan support.

After months of wrangling, the vote was held late on Friday, passing by 228-206 votes, with 215 Democrats and 13 Republicans voting in favor of the bill.

The bill is the largest infrastructure package to be passed by the US government for decades and the vote was welcomed by industry groups.

“In today’s political environment where distortions and broadsides masquerade as solutions, members of Congress have taken tangible action that will benefit every state and community across the nation,” said Dave Bauer, chief executive of the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA).

The vote was also praised by the GatewayDevelopment Commission - the organization behind the planned new crossing of the Hudson River in New York.

“The bill will put an extra $8bn into the Capital Investment Grants program providing the bulk of the federal funding for both the Portal North Bridge and Hudson Tunnel projects,” the commission said.

Experts believe that while the bill says little about the use of private finance, the trillion-dollar investment across the infrastructure space will stimulate a wide range of development, with P3s being used to stretch the cash even further.

However, it had been hoped that the Infrastructure Finance Authority - an entity contained in the initial legislation that was dropped from the plans in the Senate - would be reintroduced in the House bill to act as an infrastructure bank that could drive the investment program. That was not forthcoming, leaving some to question whether existing federal agencies have the capacity to administer such a large program of investment.

The bill will now go to President Biden for him to sign it into law.

Biden described the passage of the bill as “a monumental step forward” for the nation. “This bill will make historic and significant strides that take on the climate crisis,” he added.

Meanwhile, efforts to also pass Biden’s Build Back Better initiative, continuing a wider package of investment, fell short. Instead, a rule was passed allowing for passage of that bill in the week of November 15th.