President Joe Biden signed the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure and Jobs Act on Nov. 15, marking an important victory for the president following months of quarrels among House and Senate Democrats.
Biden signed the bill in front of the White House, while flanked by members of both parties, in an effort to portray the bill to the American people as a bipartisan effort.
“For too long, we’ve talked about having the best economy in the world,” Biden said during the signing ceremony. “We’ve talked about asserting American leadership in the world with the best and safest roads, railways, ports, and airports.”
“Here in Washington, we’ve heard countless speeches, promises, and white papers from the experts. But today, we are finally getting it done. And my message to the American people is: America is moving again. And your life is going to change for the better.”
“Too often in Washington—the reason we don’t get things done is because we insist on getting everything we want. With this law, we focused on getting things done,” Biden said in a remark aimed at moderates who have stalled Biden’s larger social spending package.
“I am signing a law that is truly consequential, because we made our democracy deliver for the people,” Biden said.
Swing-voting Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who keep close ties with Republicans, played a crucial role in crafting the bill and stood behind Biden as he signed the legislation.
Speaking on the bill at the White House, Sinema applauded the legislation.
“Our legislation represents the substantive policy changes that some have said are no longer possible in today’s Senate,” Sinema said. “The senators who negotiated this legislation show how to get things done.”
Sinema and Manchin were joined by Democratic leaders including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.).
On the other side of the aisle, Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), as well as Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), flanked the president during the signing ceremony.
The bill itself provides around $550 billion to build and maintain roads, bridges, railroads, ports, and other traditional infrastructure across the country. The bill also contains funding for less traditional forms of infrastructure, including tens of billions of dollars to expand broadband access to poorer and rural families.
Before signing the bill, Biden announced that Mitch Landrieu, the former mayor of New Orleans, would be responsible for the implementation of the massive bill.
The White House stated that Landrieu “will oversee the most significant and comprehensive investments in American infrastructure in generations—work that independent experts verify will create millions of high-paying union jobs while boosting our economic competitiveness in the world, strengthening our supply chains, and acting against inflation for the long term.”
The $1.2 trillion measure originally passed the Senate in August with the support of all 50 Democrats and 19 Republicans, including Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and Mitt Romney (R-Utah).
In the House, however, the bill was held up for months due to progressives’ fear that moderates wouldn’t support the larger budget package if the moderate-preferred infrastructure bill was passed first. Moderates, for their part, threatened to vote against the budget bill if the infrastructure bill wasn’t considered in a separate vote.
After months of stagnation, Manchin warned progressives that their “political games” to hold the infrastructure bill “won’t work,” and the West Virginia Democrat pleaded for swift consideration of the infrastructure bill.
In a closed-door meeting on Nov. 5, Biden and Pelosi convinced progressives to vote for the bill on its own.
Despite failing to win moderate support for the budget at that meeting, the House considered the infrastructure bill and approved it the same day by a 228–206 vote.
The bill is a much-needed win for the president ahead of the 2022 midterms, coming on the back of a significant defeat in Virginia’s gubernatorial race, an unexpectedly poor showing in the blue stronghold of New Jersey, and declining poll numbers for both the president and congressional Democrats.
Democrats’ larger $1.75 trillion package—which, according to the Congressional Budget Office, will actually cost $2.4 trillion—remains in limbo, as neither Manchin nor Sinema have committed to voting for the bill in the upper chamber.