In the wake of a $2.3 trillion infrastructure package, contrasting definitions of “infrastructure” complicate the lawmaking process.
The package, titled the American Jobs plan, aims to benefit the American worker and economy post-COVID-19 lockdowns. However, the objective of the plan is contested between and within party lines, as every lawmaker is looking to influence the administration’s decision-making. Within the Democrat Party, the definition of infrastructure ranges from building roads and bridges to providing green transportation and child care. Progressives like New York Representative Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders are pushing Green New Deal efforts.
Earlier this month, President Biden claimed that the word infrastructure is “evolving,” therefore the definition and aims of the 1900s are not equivalent to those in 2021. In his remarks about the American Jobs Plan, President Biden said, “Two hundred years ago, trains weren’t “traditional” infrastructure either until America made a choice to lay down tracks across the country. Highways weren’t “traditional” infrastructure until we allowed ourselves to imagine that roads could connect our nation across state lines. The idea of infrastructure has always evolved to meet the aspirations of the American people and their needs, and it’s evolving again today. We need to start seeing infrastructures through its effect on the lives of working people in America.”
“Ask all those farmers and small-business owners and homeowners whether investing in clean energy to fight the effects of climate change is part of infrastructure.” Continuing, he says, “The technology, quantum computing, investing significant amounts of money and dealing with cancer and Alzheimer’s — that’s the infrastructure of a nation.” The White House’s Fact Sheet outlines its objectives for The American Jobs Plan. California Representative Ro Khanna Tweeted, “Green transportation. Elder care. Paid leave. Child care. Water pipes & service lines. Veterans’ hospitals. Let’s be bold in our vision as we rebuild America’s modern infrastructure.”
New York Senator Kristen Gillibrand similarly claimed, “Paid leave is infrastructure. Child care is infrastructure. Caregiving is infrastructure,” on Twitter. Republican lawmakers oppose this progressive take, with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy stating, “Biden’s so-called infrastructure plan spends less than 6 percent to repair bridges, highways, and roads. The rest is a ‘kitchen sink’ of wasteful progressive demands.”
“If Democrats want to negotiate in good faith on a truly infrastructure package, I don’t know if it would get Senator McConnell’s vote, but I think there are a number of Republican votes in support of a package to include the highway bill, water, sewer, broadband, things like that,” Senate Minority Whip John Thune, said Wednesday. “Much smaller than what the Democrats have proposed, but more focused.” As lawmakers grapple with defining infrastructure, the American economy continues to struggle post-COVID-19 lockdowns.
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ARTICLE: ANTOINETTE AHO
POLITICS EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: CNBC