Congress looking to strengthen infrastructure and economy 

We’re now getting a glimpse of what the Idaho legislature would do with a surplus of funds. Last year members got paid for 75 days; this year they’re at 110 days and working on  plans to meet later this year.   

The Idaho legislature’s major accomplishment this week was passing HB 377 ordering public schools to stop harmful indoctrination of our kids. Hopefully, it will soothe egos among the anti-public schools faction enough that the legislature can pass needed budget bills. 

So I had time to look at what’s happening in national politics. Imagine my delight to learn   the Senate passed a “Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act” by a vote of 89-2. 

Can we all spell bipartisan? It’s been in scarce supply lately..    

According to Grist, the bill allots $35 billion “to improve water quality, remove lead pipes from schools and update infrastructure to be more resilient to the impacts of extreme weather and climate change.” I’m not sure what extreme weather may do to underwater pipes, but I’ve heard we have enough lead piping–much of it in school buildings–to use up the entire amount.  

The Biden administration, which has a bill asking for $111 billion for water systems in the works, has praised the new bill saying that it “aligns with the administration’s goals to upgrade and modernize aging infrastructure.”  

I get giddy thinking that Republicans might steal Biden’s thunder by rushing through bills asking for just a third of what the President plans to request. We could be improving roads, bridges, and air quality right away, rather waiting as one session after another repeats the same battles.  

People would have a real reason to think the two major parties are alike, but it would be good for the nation .  

Most bills have a margin for bartering built in. It’s like buying a house used to be. The owner would ask for $200,000 and the potential buyer would offer $180,000; the owner would counter with $194,000 and the buyer with $186,000. 

For years, Republicans have expressed shock at the amounts allotted in bills passed by the Democratic House, but, with the Senate refusing to hold hearings, there was no testing of the Democrats’ willingness to compromise.

Since only budget bills can pass the Senate with 50 votes, Democrats are going for spending bills instead of dealing with issues like election or immigration reform. The Biden Administration is prioritizing a Build Back Better program with three big money bills.

The first, the American Rescue Plan Act, passed without any Republican support. Still, three Republican demands were met. There was no minimum wage increase, no aid to cover income that a toll bridge lost when the Canadian border was closed, and no funding for a BART extension in Silicon Valley. 

According to Biden, the next bill up, the American Jobs Plan, is “a transformative effort to overhaul the nation’s economy.” It funds an eight-year effort to strengthen every asset affecting jobs. Included will be research on advanced electronics, computing, biotechnology and a whole range of technologies to deal with climate change–energy storage units, carbon capture, biofuels, and electric vehicles.  

The bulk of the bill, however, is training programs for workers and investment in jobs ranging from building roads and replacing water pipes to caring for the elderly and disabled.. 

The massive effort is to be paid for by ending the subsidies the government pays fossil fuel companies and reversing a portion of the corporate tax cuts passed in recent years.

Tax cuts have given us an ever-increasing income gap. Now, enough people are hurting that even the majority of Republicans are yearning to see tax dollars at work.