Collins, King Celebrate Senate's Passage Of $1.2 Trillion Infrastructure Bill, But Hurdles Remain In House
Maine's U.S. Senators are celebrating the Senate's final passage Tuesday of a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, a spending proposal that would direct roughly $1.9 billion to the state for roads, bridges and high-speed internet.
But hurdles remain in the House, where Democrats could tie final passage of the bill to another spending proposal.
Sixty-nine senators voted to approve the bill after several weeks of intense negotiations between Republicans, Democrats and the administration of President Joe Biden.
Representatives from the negotiating team, which included Republican Sen. Susan Collins, have framed the bill as long overdue and a rare victory for bipartisanship.
To get there, Democrats had to accept a smaller spending package than the Biden administration originally asked for, while Republicans had to ignore hectoring from former President Donald Trump to sink the bill — even though it was smaller than one he proposed while in office.
"The backlog of needed repairs and upgrades and replacements in my state of Maine and throughout our country is simply enormous," Collins said from the Senate floor on Monday.
She said the spending plan will pump millions into Maine's deteriorating roads and bridges, as well as money for high-speed internet.
While the bill faces additional votes in the House — and potential changes — the White House last week distributed a fact sheet detailing what Maine is expected to receive.
It includes $1.3 billion in highway funding, $225 million for bridge maintenance and construction, as well as additional competitive grant funding opportunities.
The estimated $100 broadband funding will add to previous funding proposals designed to beef up the state's high-speed internet infrastructure, a windfall of money that this year prompted Democratic Gov. Janet Mills to sign off on a new broadband agency to distribute the funds.
In a statement, Maine Independent Senator Angus King called the broadband provisions "the most transformational part of this bill – or of any bill I’ve ever voted on, for that matter."
He noted several other items "worth celebrating" that would help in Maine, including $110 billion in funding for roads, bridges, and major projects, $40 billion for bridges, $55 billion to support clean drinking water and address PFAS contamination, $20 billion for airports of all sizes, and nearly $17 billion to strengthen the nation’s port infrastructure.
The Maine Department of Transportation is awaiting final details of the spending plan, but Commissioner Bruce Van Note said in a statement that the roads and bridges funding appears robust.
Federal transportation chief Pete Buttigieg offered a similar assessment on NPR last week.
"We're talking about the biggest dedicated funding for bridges that we've ever done, I mean since the Eisenhower administration and the interstate system was setup in the first place," he said. "It's the most we've done for public transit federally ever, I mean in the history of the country. The most we've done for passenger rail since the inception of Amtrak. And also, some priorities that aren't exactly transportation but are definitely infrastructure, whether we think about something that looks to the future like getting every American connected to the fast, affordable internet."
Despite the Senate vote Tuesday, the infrastructure bill is not a done deal.
It still requires approval in the House and Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said that a final vote won't occur until the Senate finishes work on a separate $3.5 trillion spending package that has already drawn fierce opposition from Republicans.
The separate proposal is also creating divisions among Democrats.
Moderates, including Maine's 2nd District Congressman Jared Golden, on Tuesday asked Pelosi to quickly approve the infrastructure plan.