Q: What’s in the Senate’s bipartisan infrastructure package for Iowa?
A: For years, Iowans have urged elected leaders to work together in Washington to reach consensus on public works projects vital to economic growth, competitiveness and opportunity in our state. In August, the Senate passed a $1.2 trillion infrastructure package with more than a two-thirds majority vote. The bipartisan breakthrough shows the Senate can come together on the people’s business and get things done. Keep in mind, the package renews funding for infrastructure programs set to expire on Sept. 30. Much of the package had already been vetted through the committee process, such as updates to existing programs for surface transportation, renewing drinking water and waste water programs for states, and boosting our response to cyber threats.
It includes projects Iowans at my county meetings have been seeking over a long period of time, including during the Trump administration. In fact, President Trump recognized the urgent need to invest in America’s infrastructure, pushing for more than $2 trillion during his administration. The momentum for infrastructure has continued during the Biden administration. Iowans deserve infrastructure that serves the needs of their businesses, households, farms and daily lives. During bipartisan negotiations, neither Republicans nor Democrats got everything they wanted or like everything in it. A critical element for securing my support was removing unrelated pork and progressive priorities that were unrelated to infrastructure. If Congress is going to spend hard-earned tax dollars on infrastructure, it’s got to be spent on true infrastructure with responsible financing to pay for roads, bridges, inland waterways, railways, broadband and other projects beneficial to Iowans and our economy. For example, making improvements on the Mississippi River and preventing floods on the Missouri River are key for Iowa’s farms, exports and prosperity. Moving cargo on the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers is safer, more efficient and relieves congestion on our roadways. Iowans widely support infrastructure legislation that will fix potholes, repair broken bridges, improve locks and dams, pave new roads and build broadband in unserved rural areas and underserved communities.
These investments are consequential to Iowa, including at least $4.2 billion in federal highway aid for Iowa over five years and at least $431 million for Iowa’s bridges, with more resources available through competitive grants. In a recent study, Iowa ranks among the worst in the nation for the number of structurally deficient bridges. Of 23,982 bridges in our state, 19 percent are deemed structurally deficient. Iowans deserve safe bridges. Iowa farms and businesses will benefit from $17 billion included for river management on the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers and $25 billion for airport improvements that will help small and large airports in our state. All told, this infrastructure package invests in Iowa’s future by helping bridge the digital divide in Rural America and expand access to high-speed internet service. It has $65 billion for broadband that will help address the disparity magnified by the pandemic for remote work, digital learning and telehealth, fostering more opportunity for farms and small businesses.
While a pothole can blow out a tire and ruin one’s commute to school or work, most people don’t go to bed at night worrying about cyberterrorism and ransomware attacks. However, recent attacks on our food and fuel supply chains added urgency to strengthen U.S. cybersecurity. The infrastructure package beefs up resources to protect our national, food and energy security. In the end, my support for the infrastructure bill boiled down to one issue: Is it good for Iowa? This investment will pay dividends for years to come, improving the daily lives of Iowans with better roads, bridges, broadband, safe drinking water and more.
Q: What’s all this talk about “Human Infrastructure?”
A: Democrat leaders wanted to lump popular and broadly supported traditional infrastructure – like roads, bridges and broadband – with vast new entitlement programs that would expand government’s reach and influence into the daily lives and pocketbooks of Americans. They called these liberal priorities “Human Infrastructure.” When a few Senate Democrats accepted the offer to work with a few Republicans to come up with a much smaller and more fiscally responsible package containing traditional infrastructure, it threw a wrench in Democrats’ plans. So instead of building on the spirit of bipartisanship with passage of the infrastructure package, the Democratic Majority immediately pivoted to its partisan $4.2 trillion tax and spending spree. I strongly oppose this budget blueprint. It’s not an infrastructure bill, it’s a bloated boondoggle. The chief architect of the plan wants to transform our entire economy and expand the government’s reach into your wallets, schools, farms and businesses. Yes, that means socialism. Now, moderate members among the Democrats must decide if they’ll support the progressive wish list now that it can’t fly under the radar under the guise of infrastructure. At the very least, Democrats will have to make their case for raising taxes to pay for their spending spree rather than hiding behind popular support for fixing roads and bridges. Make no mistake. Their budget would create massive new entitlements with massive new tax increases. It would pour gasoline on the fires of inflation that’s already forcing Iowans to pay more for gas, groceries and more. Let’s also not forget the suspension of the debt limit just expired July 31; the U.S. Treasury can’t keep printing money to pay the government’s bills and if the Democrats want to break the debt ceiling to pay for their $4.2 trillion budget, they need to go on record and come clean with the American people. Their budget has nothing to do with fixing ports and potholes and everything to do with pushing the Biden climate agenda, creating new entitlements and expanding social welfare programs. This $4.2 trillion budget is reckless and fiscally unsustainable. It needs to fail, just as their effort to falsely advertise it as infrastructure failed. The jig is up and it’s going to be a harder sell to the American people and every lawmaker who cares about raising taxes and saddling our kids and grandkids with debt.