What's In The Infrastructure Bill? What's In Build Back Better? Which Is Which? Wonkette Gets Servicey!

What's In The Infrastructure Bill? What's In Build Back Better? Which Is Which? Wonkette Gets Servicey!
Mamas! Trains! Agriculture! And greenhouse gases (not shown, but definitely there).

On the off chance you may have missed it, the House passed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework (BIF) late Friday, with the second, much larger part of Joe Biden's first term agenda, the Build Back Better reconciliation bill, likely to be passed the week prior to Thanksgiving, as long as Joe Manchin doesn't decide it needs to include tax credits for diesel pickup trucks that "roll coal" on bicyclists and drivers of Prii.

in Monday's White House presser, Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden would sign the infrastructure bill into law sometime next week, when Congress returns to Washington after taking this week off so representatives and senators can meet constituents and get to the bottom of why Hunter Biden's laptop is teaching critical race theory. Also, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a congressional delegation were in Scotland this week for the big UN climate summit; Pelosi addressed the climate conference on the disproportionate impacts of the climate emergency on women and girls, particularly in developing countries.

Obviously, Biden wants to use the passage of the BIF as leverage to move Build Back Better to completion, which seems like a pretty sound strategy, and if your House or Senate critter is doing town halls this week, let 'em know you want Build Back Better to pass, yes, even if they're Republicans.

So now that the agenda is moving forward, let's take a moment to sort out what's in the two bills, in an easy bullet-point list that you can clip and save for later. (Please do not attempt to actually clip anything out of your monitor, it was a joke.) Because this is gonna be a big comprehensive listicle, we'll hit the BIF in this post, and then everything that's currently in Build Back Better in a second part. We've even linked 'em here, because we're goddamned professionals that way.

Part the First: The Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill

This would be the one passed Friday; its official title, the "Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act," is so boring that we're just going to keep calling it BIF, because that's much funner to say than "IIJA," which I guess if you pronounced it as a word would sound like Buddy Hackett doing a 1968 sketch about karate.

This is the smaller of the two bills, and as we've explainered before, it's the result of Joe Manchin's insistence on carving out much of the physical infrastructure stuff from Biden's American Jobs Plan, so he could restore bipartisanship by writing a bill Republicans could agree to. In the process of making it work for Manchin and his Republican colleagues, the total amount of spending in the bill got slashed, from the proposed $2 trillion over 10 years, to roughly $1.2 trillion, of which $550 billion is actually new spending while the other $650 billion will go for a hodgepodge of "existing transportation and highway programs under previously planned appropriations." (Mind you, the original "Jobs Plan" did include a fair bit of "human infrastructure" stuff like home- and community-based care for disabled and elderly folks, which ended up going right into the Build Back Better reconciliation bill after the "physical infrastructure" stuff was carved out.) Let's look at what's in that $550 billion in new spending for BIF:

Planes, Trains, And Automobiles (Also Ports)

This is your go-to infrastructure infrastructure:

  • $110 billion to repair and upgrade some 173,000 miles of roads and 45,000 bridges. (That's down from $159 billion in Biden's original request.)
  • $66 billion for passenger and freight rail, including funds to finally close Amtrak's maintenance backlog, make trains safer, and upgrade commuter rail in the northeast corridor.
  • $39 billion for public transit, to repair and modernize existing systems and to make transit accessible (just three short decades after the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990). Includes $7.5 billion to make bus and rail fleets cleaner, retiring dirty old diesels and introducing zero- or low-emissions buses, so you can checkmark this one under "climate" too.
  • $25 billion for airports, upgrading air traffic control equipment and getting on a lot of backlogged airport maintenance and repairs nationwide. Flying will continue to suck.
  • $17 billion for ports and waterways, with an emphasis on easing congestion and reducing pollution.

Climate And Environmental Justice

While the really big climate spending is in Build Back Better, there's a heck of a lot of good things in the BIF, which we'll get to in a moment. Unfortunately, as critics have pointed out, the BIF includes a number of provisions that could end up subsidizing fossil fuels as well. For example, those "low emission" buses may be cleaner, but they're not zero-emission machines. There's funding for "decarbonized" hydrogen fuels, but that's still generated from natural gas. Some environmental groups also object to funding for carbon capture technology, which they fear could be an excuse to prop up fossil fuels, like the failed "clean coal" boondoggle. That said, there's a case to be made for the still-developing technology to remove carbon directly from the atmosphere, as long as it's a supplement to rapid decarbonization of the economy, not a substitute for it. We plan to write more about this soon!

As for more unambiguously good things in BIF, the bill includes measures to

Also, we're going to just include as "Justice" the $65 billion to build out high-speed broadband in rural and urban areas that have gone too long without it. That is down from the $100 billion Biden proposed, but let's hope it means no more kids ever have to do homework on a school laptop outside a Taco Bell.

Taxes For Your (Electric!) Taxis

Because Republicans balked at the original plan to fund much of the BIF via funding the IRS enough to collect unpaid taxes that are already owed, the funding will come from a bunch of smaller revenue streams, as summarized thusly by the Wall Street Journal, with its sentences copy-pasted into bullet points by us, for neatness' sake. (It's not plagiarism if we say how we done it!)

  • More than $200 billion in repurposed funds originally intended for coronavirus relief but left unused
  • About $50 billion will come from delaying a Trump-era rule on Medicare rebates
  • $50 billion from certain states returning unused unemployment insurance supplemental funds
  • About $30 billion will be generated from applying information-reporting requirements for cryptocurrency
  • Nearly $60 billion will come from economic growth spurred by the spending
  • $87 billion from past and future sales of wireless spectrum space.
Back in August, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that the revenues would pay for all but $256 billion over 10 years, and the extra $25.6 billion in annual deficits led to predictable cries of "Oh, I am WOE" from Republicans who shoveled money at Donald Trump's tax cuts like they were feeding live kittens to Dick Cheney.

Screw it, this thing's pretty much paid for and it's good. Also, the increased funding for the IRS got shifted to Build Back Better, which will be the subject of our next archive-quality listicle!

[Vox / CNN / WSJ / White House]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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