President Joe Biden will face a joint Congress and the nation Wednesday, laying out his vision to create jobs, combat COVID-19, and confront climate change. Behind the bold vision is a complex mix of funding, causing confusion at the state level. Congressional Correspondent Lisa Desjardins is here to help follow the money.
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Tomorrow night, President Biden gives his first address to Congress. Among other things, he is expected to talk about his large infrastructure and jobs plan.
But few realize that is just one of the major infrastructure bills rolling in Washington. You could call it a pile of opportunity that has states scrambling.
Our Lisa Desjardins is here to help us all follow the money.
Hello to Lisa.
So, Lisa, tell us, what is it that Congress is considering, and why is this historic?
Judy, I know people have heard infrastructure week for so long, but, listen, this is the time to pay attention, because what we have here right now is not just a once-in-a-generation influx of spending on infrastructure, but perhaps a once-in-a-century type of spending on infrastructure.
And I want to clear up exactly what's happening. Let's go through the four different ways that Congress is trying to spend money on infrastructure.
First, the American Rescue Plan, that was that big bill passed in March. That is already in law, $350 billion that states can use for many types of infrastructure.
Next, happening now, water, energy and highway bills. Those are authorization bills. They don't spend the money yet, but they really get the pipeline moving. And those right now are bipartisan.
In addition to those bills, we are also seeing the return of earmarks. Democrats in the House and the Senate would like to bring back earmarks for the appropriations bills and for some transportation ideas, but for those annual spending bills, so that every member of Congress, for example, could say, I want money for this bridge or this road.
And it's interesting, because the deadline to get those project proposals in for every member of Congress is this week in the House.
And last thing, we know the Biden jobs plan, as you mentioned, that's expected to be hundreds of billions of dollars just in and of itself.
Judy, talking to congressional offices that are well-managed offices, especially in the House, they are inundated by counties and cities asking them for more information about how they can get this money, how they can request things like earmarks. Again, the deadline for that one, for those requests is this week.
So, state and local governments would have a lot to do with all this. How are they approaching it?
Well, I want to play a bite by someone who's paying very close attention to this. And that is Representative David Price of North Carolina. He chairs the Subcommittee on Transportation for House Appropriations, just to give you a feel for how frenetic this is.
Rep. David Price:
This is a huge moment for those who care about infrastructure to pull out all the stops and try to get it done.
I guarantee you that most congressional offices are scrambling right now to deal with the requests that are coming in.
And then, at the same time, states are getting ready to get that American Rescue Plan money that has been passed, and they're trying to deliberate how they will spend it.
So, I want to look at what we know some states are considering for that Rescue Plan money that should be arriving in the next couple of weeks. For example, Florida is considering some major environmental cleanups and replenishing one of their big transportation funds.
In Maine, they're talking about a major broadband push that could bring broadband out to some of the most rural areas of that state. And in counties across the country, like Lake County, Indiana, we're talking roads, bridges, sewers, county buildings.
This, Judy, is something, this is money that is going to every single county in this country. Sometimes, it's as much as a third or more of their annual budget. I can't stress enough what a major kind of influx of cash this could be across the country.
So important to be talking about this, Lisa.
And, as you're saying, people are paying attention from one end of the country to the other.
Lisa Desjardins, who will continue to watch this story very closely.
Thank you, Lisa.