WASHINGTON, DC: US House of Representatives Democrats on Thursday (Jun 18) unveiled a US$1.5 trillion infrastructure bill that they will seek to pass in coming weeks, arguing it has been made more urgent by the coronavirus pandemic.
The legislation would spur construction or improvements of roads, bridges, ports, clean energy, schools and other projects that experts say have long been neglected. It comes at a time when the United States is in desperate need of new jobs amid an economic downturn sparked by the coronavirus.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would push for passage of the sprawling bill, which also would bring broadband service to more rural areas, before a Jul 4 congressional recess.
Since taking office in January, 2017, President Donald Trump and Democrats have talked about infrastructure but have been unable to agree on financing.
As she unveiled the bill along with committee heads who crafted it, Pelosi said it would be a bipartisan effort and noted that the Republican president talks about the need for new infrastructure investments “quite a bit.”
But some congressional Republicans, who lately have become worried about rising federal debt after years of downplaying its importance, have expressed reservations over expensive infrastructure legislation.
House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal, asked by a reporter about the Democratic bill’s price, talked of using a combination of government-subsidised bonds, private equity bonds and “some borrowing” to cover the US$1.5 trillion cost.
He added that he was open to negotiations on new revenues.
Democrats argued that the coronavirus pandemic has created urgent need for improved internet services, especially as “telemedicine” and “distance learning” have blossomed as Americans have been self-quarantining since March.
The bill, which also provides money to build or refurbish schools, would improve ventilation systems, an important step in stemming the spread of the coronavirus.