Biden says passage of $1 trillion infrastructure bill a ‘monumental step forward’

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(WASHINGTON) — President Joe Biden said the country took a “monumental step forward” after his $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure plan passed the House late Friday.

“We did something that’s long overdue, that long has been talked about in Washington, but never actually been done,” Biden said Saturday from the White House of the bipartisan infrastructure bill. “A once-in-a-generation investment that’s going to create millions of jobs, modernize our infrastructure, our roads, our bridges, our broadband, a whole range of things. To turn the climate crisis into an opportunity. And it puts us on a path to win the economic competition of the 21st century that we faced with China and other large countries, and the rest of the world.”

The bipartisan infrastructure deal will invest $110 billion in the nation’s highways, bridges and roads; $66 billion in passenger rail; $39 billion in public transit; $65 billion in broadband access; $65 billion in the nation’s power grid; and $55 billion in water and wastewater infrastructure, among other areas. The White House said the plan will create on average 1.5 million jobs per year over the next decade.

Biden had taken to the phones for last-minute calls to key House members as Speaker Nancy Pelosi pushed through two critical votes late Friday on the Democratic agenda: the infrastructure plan, and the $1.75 trillion “Build Back Better” social spending and climate policy package.

The final vote on the infrastructure plan, already passed by the Senate, passed 228-206, with 13 Republicans joining Democrats and six Democrats voting against. The bill will now be sent to Biden’s desk for his signature.

During a briefing with reporters, Biden told ABC News’ Ben Gittleson that Americans can expect to see the impacts of the bill within two to three months.

In the end, it took 87 days following the passage of the bill in the Senate to get the spending approved in the House, as well as two visits to the Capitol by the president and dozens of meetings between the White House and representatives.

The six Democrats who voted against the infrastructure bill were all members of the so-called “squad”: Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, Cori Bush, Rashida Tlaib and Jamaal Bowman.

Democratic infighting had continued throughout Friday as moderates demanded Pelosi wait for a cost estimate on the larger bill from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office before moving forward.

That group, including Reps. Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y., Ed Case, D-Hawaii, Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., and Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., released a statement late Friday saying they would support the “Build Back Better” vote if it’s considered by Nov. 15 and the CBO scores remains consistent.

Progressives, who had their own issues with the bills, such as guaranteeing the inclusion of paid family leave, also came to an agreement late Friday to support the vote.

“Tonight, members of the Progressive Caucus and our colleagues in the Democratic Caucus reached an agreement to advance both pieces of President Biden’s legislative agenda,” Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal said in a statement just prior to the vote.

Just after midnight in Washington, the House approved a procedural measure that advances the $1.75 trillion plan, 221 to 213, directly down party lines.

Late Friday afternoon, Pelosi announced the House would vote Friday on the already Senate-passed bipartisan infrastructure plan and then take a procedural vote on moving forward with the “Build Back Better” legislation — but not a final vote — a significant concession.

“We had hoped to be able to bring both bills to the floor today. Some members want more clarification or validation of numbers that have been put forth — it’s top line, that it is fully paid for. And we honor that request,” Pelosi said. “So today, we hope to pass the BIF and also the rule on Build Back Better with the idea that before Thanksgiving — it should take them another week or so — to get the numbers they are requesting.”

So, Democratic leaders imposed yet another deadline after missing many others — to pass the “Build Back Better” legislation by the middle of the month, with Pelosi calling its hoped-for passage a “Thanksgiving gift for the American people.”

The speaker, renowned for her vote-counting prowess and who has famously said she doesn’t call a vote unless she know she has enough to win, was asked by a reporter, “Do you … have 218 votes to pass it?” Pelosi answered, “We’ll see, won’t we?”

“I have a speaker’s secret whip count. I don’t tell anybody. Not even you, my dear good friends, but I have a pretty good feeling,” she said.

Even so, it wasn’t clear whether progressive Democrats would go along with Pelosi’s plan to vote Friday on the bipartisan infrastructure bill.

For months, they’ve threatened to vote against it — unless at the same time they got a vote on final passage of the larger social spending package.

Pelosi had addressed some of their concerns by adding back in four weeks of paid family and medical leave over the objections of West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin, whose vote is key to getting the measure passed in the Senate.

In a sign of the fast-changing developments and disarray, minutes after Pelosi announced there would be a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure package Friday, progressives gathered behind closed doors.

In the middle of their meeting, Biden called Jayapal, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

She left in a hurry, racing to nearby elevators to take the call from the president.

ABC News Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott said she was told roughly 20 progressives were ready to vote against the bipartisan infrastructure bill unless there was a vote on the larger social spending bill, too.

The roadblocks thrown up by House Democrats continued despite Biden urging them to act — with the party facing new pressure to deliver after disappointing election results on Tuesday.

“I’m asking every House Member, Member of the House of Representatives to vote yes on both these bills right now. Send the infrastructure bill to my desk. Send the Build Back Better bill to the Senate,” Biden send in his Friday morning message to lawmakers. “Let’s, let’s build on incredible economic progress. Build on what we’ve already done, because this will be such a boost when it occurs. Let’s show the world that American democracy can deliver and propel our economy forward. Let’s get this done.”

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