Senate passes Biden’s infrastructure bill, but success in the House remains uncertain

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The U.S. Senate voted 69-30 on August 10 to approve a $1 trillion infrastructure bill that includes money for clean energy and climate initiatives and delivers a key component of President Biden’s agenda.

The legislation would be the largest federal investment in infrastructure projects in more than a decade. It won the support of 19 Republicans, including Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate Republican leader. In recent days, former President Donald Trump worked to scuttle the bill.

The bill’s future is not assured, however, as it moves to the Democrat-controlled House. There, the speaker, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and the nearly 100-member Progressive Caucus, have said they will not vote on it until the Senate moves on a separate $3.5 trillion social policy bill.

The Senate vote is a victory for President Biden’s policy agenda.

image: Wikimedia commons

That bill would include policies to address climate change, among other issues, and is expected to face a solid wall of Republican opposition.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said he intends to take up the bill through a process known as reconciliation, which shields it from a filibuster. Schumer would need to hold together all 50 Democrats to vote in favor of the bill so that Vice President Kamala Harris could cast the expected tie-breaking 51st vote in favor.

Following the Senate’s successful action on the infrastructure bill, a group of Representatives sent a letter to Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) urging them to retain clean energy provisions in the House version of the infrastructure bill.

The letter asked that the infrastructure package prioritize what the signers said would be a “stable, predictable, and long-term tax platform” that:

  • Provides long-term extensions and expansions to the Production Tax Credit and Investment Tax Credit to meet President Biden’s goal of a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035;
  • Extends and modernizes tax incentives for commercial and residential energy efficiency improvements and residential electrification;
  • Extends and modifies incentives for clean transportation options and alternative fuel infrastructure;
  • Supports domestic clean energy, energy efficiency, and clean transportation manufacturing.

It asked that given continued and projected tax equity constraints, and to maximize use by the broadest range of stakeholders, “it is important that a direct pay option be available” where project financing challenges exist.

The letter was signed by more than 170 House members.

Stable and predictable

Organizations were quick to praise the Senate action and called on the House to move rapidly to approve the spending.

Heather Zichal, CEO of the American Clean Power Association, said, “As we look ahead to the budget reconciliation process, we must ensure that stable and predictable policies allow the rapid development of job creating clean energy projects across the country.”

U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Suzanne Clark said that her group applauded the Senate for “doing its job on a bipartisan basis” and called on the House to “continue the bipartisan progress and send this bill to the president’s desk.”

And Lisa Jacobson, president of the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, said her group was hopeful that the House will “move quickly to approve these policies, so that work on the ground can get underway across America.”

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