WASHINGTON (CN) — President Joe Biden marked a pivotal moment in his presidency and a historic investment in America’s future on Monday by signing the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill into law following a tumultuous journey to his desk.
The legislation renews existing programs and provides $550 billion in new investments that aim to repair crumbling roads and bridges, expand broadband internet in rural areas, create a network of electric car charging stations, improve clean water access, repair the energy grid with clean energy sources, and revitalize airports, ports and public transportation.
Through its focus on reimagining the power grid and investing in clean energy and transportation, the infrastructure bill is being celebrated by many as a historic step to combat climate change.
The Senate passed the infrastructure bill with a bipartisan 69-30 vote in August, but it languished through months of delays in the House, hampered in part by Democratic holdouts hoping to expedite a vote on the social spending package known as the Build Back Better Act. The infrastructure bill finally passed earlier this month with the support of 13 Republicans in the lower chamber.
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, who help craft the legislation, praised it in a media call before Monday’s ceremony.
Biden formalized the massive legislation into law with a swish of the pen during a ceremony on the White House South Lawn Monday where congressional and local government representatives from both sides of the aisle appeared in a rare show of bipartisanship unlikely to be repeated so close to midterm elections.
“The world has changed and we have to be ready. My fellow Americans, today I want you to know we hear you and we see you,” Biden said.
Senator Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican who worked on the legislation, applauded both the investment in jobs and local government resources as well as the spectacle of bipartisan legislation in today’s political climate.
“Increasing polarization of our country is keeping us from getting things done, and we have a responsibility to do better,” Portman said. “The American people want to see us coming together.”
The political tensions and the threat of stalemates in the backdrop of Monday’s ceremony marked a through line in several speeches this afternoon.
“In many ways, this day embodies our character as a nation. It demonstrates exactly who we are. We are believers through and through. We see what can be, unburdened by what has been,” Vice President Kamala Harris said.
Despite the emphasis on bipartisanship, some Republicans who voted in favor of the legislation, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, declined to attend the ceremony.
“[The president] invited everybody who supported it. Whether they come or not, that’s their choice,” press secretary Jen Psaki said during a news conference ahead of the signing ceremony.
But the tone of the ceremony remained optimistic, with Biden focusing on the legislation as a major accomplishment of his presidency and declaring that it will help blue-collar workers while making America more internationally competitive.
“I truly believe that 50 years from now, historians are going to look back at this moment and say, ‘That’s the moment America began to win the competition of the 21st century,'” Biden said.
Former Mayor of New Orleans Mitch Landrieu, a Democrat known for his work rebuilding the city after Hurricane Katrina, was named earlier this week as the senior adviser responsible with overseeing the implementation of the law.
“He’ll have full access to every tool the federal government has to get it done,” Biden said.
With the infrastructure bill solidified into law, all eyes are now on the expected vote at the House this week on the Build Back Better Act, another mammoth pillar of Biden’s agenda that aims to expand and create new social safety-net programs.
The House delayed a vote on the $1.7 trillion social infrastructure bill earlier this month after moderate Democrats requested an analysis of the legislation’s official price tag from the Congressional Budget Office.
The Congressional Budget Office said it is on track to have a complete cost estimate for the bill by Friday.