Calling it a “once-in-a-generation investment,” Utah Sen. Mitt Romney celebrated the Senate’s passage Tuesday of a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that he helped negotiate.
In the final 69-30 vote, 19 Republicans joined Democrats to support a measure that includes $550 billion in new money for roads, bridges, water pipes, electrical lines and broadband.
If it gets through the House later this year, it would be the single biggest infrastructure package in the nation’s history.
“For decades, elected officials have talked about addressing our nation’s aging infrastructure,” Romney said after the vote, saying this bill “turns that talk into reality.”
The first-term Republican senator also said it would bring significant money to Utah projects. If it became law, Utah would receive $2.4 billion for highways and $225 million for bridge replacements. The state would get $626 million for public transit and $36 million to set up more electric vehicle charging stations.
A White House analysis also said Utah would get a minimum of $100 million to expand broadband access, particularly in rural areas.
Romney also worked to ensure that $214 million would fund a settlement with the Navajo Nation to bring drinking water to more people in southeastern Utah.
“As one of the fastest-growing states in the country, Utah is in serious need of additional infrastructure,” he said. “I’m proud to have helped negotiate this bill because it gave Utah a seat at the table.”
One of the chief critics of the bill is Romney’s Utah colleague, Republican Sen. Mike Lee. He has argued it spends too much money and that some of these projects should be handled by states and not the federal government. He has worried about inflation and argues the bill would add to the national debt.
“I am sorely disappointed that the Senate chose to pass this irresponsible and so-called ‘infrastructure’ bill,” Lee said Tuesday. “It drastically expands federal power; it increases spending without legitimate ‘pay-fors’; it exacerbates our already dangerous inflation; and it facilitates burdensome taxes and regulations that will hamper and harm our infrastructure. Ultimately, it will be the American people who will be forced to pay the exorbitant price.”
Romney and the rest of the bipartisan negotiating team argue the bill is paid for — and avoids a tax increase. It uses unspent pandemic relief funds and a series of smaller pots of money, such as a planned sale from the strategic oil reserve. It also relies on anticipated economic growth from the infrastructure projects.
The House is not expected to take up this bill until late September or October. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.,, has said she won’t bring it up for a vote until the Senate passes a $3.5 trillion spending plan Democrats are attempting to pass on their own. That bill would focus heavily on child care, two years of free community college, expanding Medicaid and climate change initiatives.
Romney, Lee and every Senate Republican oppose that effort.
Reps. Chris Stewart and Blake Moore, members of Utah’s all-GOP House delegation, have said they intend to oppose the bipartisan infrastructure bill in the House, in part because of their opposition to the Democrats’ larger spending plan. Romney has argued that each bill should stand on its own.
The Utah senator has also pointed out that the infrastructure measure he helped craft does respond to climate change. It includes his bill to create a wildfire commission to better coordinate the nation’s response to raging fires in the West. It also includes billions to fight drought and flooding — both of which have been challenges this year in Utah.