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By Tim Leeds 

Senate advances infrastructure bill to floor for debate

 

Last updated 7/29/2021 at 11:37am



After weeks of negotiations, the Senate Wednesday advanced a bill to increase investment in U.S. infrastructure on a 67-32 vote with one senator not voting.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., voted for advancing the bill to the floor along with all other Senate Democrats, two independents and 17 Republicans, while Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., was one of the 32 Republicans voting against it.

A fact sheet released by the White House says the deal includes $550 billion in new spending on infrastructure.

The fact sheet says the bill includes

• Making the largest federal investment in public transit ever

• Making the largest federal investment in passenger rail since the creation of Amtrak

• Making the single largest dedicated bridge investment since the construction of the interstate highway system

• Making the largest investment in clean drinking water and waste water infrastructure in American history, delivering clean water to millions of families

• Ensuring every American has access to reliable high-speed internet

• Helping tackle the climate crisis by making the largest investment in clean energy transmission and EV infrastructure in history; electrifying thousands of school and transit buses across the country; and creating a new Grid Deployment Authority to build a clean, 21st century electric grid

Tester, who was one of the 10-member bipartisan group that negotiated the bill, praised the final package before the vote.

“I’m pleased to announce that we have reached a bipartisan deal on a historic bill that will upgrade Montana’s aging infrastructure, create-good paying jobs, and help us maintain our competitive edge over China,” Tester said in a release Wednesday. “Montanans have been living off our parents’ infrastructure for decades, and this package will finally provide critical investments in roads, bridges, broadband, airports, and water systems across our state that will boost our economy for years to come.

“Everywhere I go in Montana, I hear from folks who tell me they expect their elected leaders to work across the aisle to deliver real, lasting results for our state and our economy.” Tester added. “This bipartisan legislation will do that, and I’m proud to have worked with Republicans, Democrats, and the president to get it done.”

President Joe Biden, who has made the infrastructure bill one of his top priorities in the early stages of his presidency, praised the bipartisan group for its work in a statement issued Wednesday before the vote.

“This deal signals to the world that our democracy can function, deliver, and do big things,” Biden said in the statement. “As we did with the transcontinental railroad and the interstate highway, we will once again transform America and propel us into the future.”

“This deal makes key investments to put people to work all across the country — in cities, small towns, rural communities, and across our coastlines and plains,” Biden added.

Tester said in his release that he secured a number of wins for Montana in the legislation, including:

 

Water Infrastructure

  • $2.5 billion to complete all authorized Indian water rights settlements, including settlements for the Blackfeet, Crow, and Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.

• $1 billion to complete all authorized rural water projects through the Bureau of Reclamation, including Fort Peck/Dry Prairie, Rocky Boys/North Central, and Musselshell-Judith rural water systems.

• Up to $100 million for rehabilitating the Milk River Project.

• Clarifies that American Rescue Plan Act state and local fiscal recovery funds may be used toward the state or federal cost share to rehabilitate Bureau of Reclamation water infrastructure.

• $3.5 billion for Indian Health Service Sanitation Construction program, providing water, sewage, and sanitation services to tribal households.

• $11.2 billion in grants for states and tribes to reclaim abandoned mine lands.

 

Resiliency Infrastructure

  • $7 billion for Army Corps of Engineers infrastructure priorities to improve flood mitigation.

• $350 million of that for Army Corps CAP funding, which includes Section 205 levee projects.

• $3.5 billion for the Federal Emergency and Management Agency Flood Mitigation Assistance program.

• $2.2 billion for the Aging Infrastructure Account, including to the Bureau of Reclamation for water infrastructure projects across the West that are in need of major upgrades or replacement.

• $500 million for the Western Area Power Administration’s power purchase and transmission activities.

• Tester-Moran bill to extend the Internal Revenue Service tax filing deadlines in Fire Management Assistance Grant areas after significant fires.

• $3.37 billion for reducing wildfire risk, including hazardous fuels treatments, wildland firefighter salaries, fire research, and grants to communities to reduce wildfire risks.

 

Surface transportation

• A portion of the Haulers of Agriculture and Livestock Safety (HAULS) Act of 2021, which cuts burdensome hours of service requirements on agricultural and livestock haulerst.

• DRIVE Safe Act, which creates a pilot program that lifts federal regulations that prevent Montana truck drivers younger than 21 from transporting goods across state lines and establishes a new training initiative for 18- to 20-year-old truck drivers.

• Right Track Act and Blocked Railroad Crossing Bill, which improve safety at rural train crossings and addresses instances of blocked highway-railroad crossings across the U.S.

• $15 million to study Amtrak long-distance passenger rail travel, providing funding for groups working to increase access to long-distance passenger rail travel like the Greater Northwest Passenger Rail Working Group.

 

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