The agreement between Republican and Democrat senators to an infrastructure plan will provide badly needed improvements to transportation and other infrastructure and shows that there is still room for compromise in Congress.
But the deal is lacking in many ways and the proposal to pay for new spending is mostly bogus.
The plan calls for $579 billion in new spending, on top of $312 billion in previously approved projects — for a total of $973 billion in spending over five years.
Rather than increasing taxes to pay for the projects the two sides reverted to a long-standing approach of gimmicks that won’t pay for the plan. It includes some one-time revenues and promises to crack down on unemployment insurance fraud and tax cheats.
While the plan spends $312 billion on transportation and more than $100 billion on broadband and water infrastructure, it fails to address President Joe Biden’s call for sizeable investment in clean energy research and jobs or schools, child care centers or housing.
But Biden has made clear he and Senate Democrats intend to move ahead with those efforts through a budget reconciliation bill that can’t be filibustered by Republicans. As the Democrats move forward they need to ensure additional infrastructure bills also include hard revenues to pay for them, unlike the smoke and mirrors funding plan used in the compromise.
Whatever the deal’s shortcomings Americans should be cheered by the fact that compromise is still possible. After both parties have spent so many years in gridlock on major legislation, successfully negotiating a deal holds promise that American democracy hasn’t disappeared.