The historic investments in the new infrastructure law and how they could affect inflation

Spirits were high at the White House Monday as lawmakers joined President Joe Biden to sign the bipartisan infrastructure bill into law. The $1.2 trillion legislation has some $550 billion in new spending that will go to public infrastructure projects over the next five years. White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor and congressional correspondent Lisa Desjardins join Judy Woodruff with more.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Spirits were high at the White House as Democratic and Republican lawmakers joined President Biden to mark a historic legislative achievement, signing the bipartisan infrastructure bill into law.

    The president praised the bipartisanship that got them here.

    Joe Biden, President of the United States: The bill I'm about to sign into law is proof that, despite the cynics, Democrats and Republicans can come together and deliver results.

    We can do this.

    (APPLAUSE)

  • Joe Biden:

    We can deliver real results for real people, we see, in ways that really matter each and every day to each person out there, and we're taking a monumental step forward to Build Back Better as a nation.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The $1.2 trillion legislation has $550 billion in new spending that will go toward public infrastructure projects across the country over the next five years, including money for roads, bridges and mass transit.

    For more, I'm joined by our White House correspondent, Yamiche Alcindor, and our congressional correspondent, Lisa Desjardins.

    So hello to so hello to both of you.

    This is a moment the president has been working for, for a long time.

    Yamiche, it's huge for him, and it's important for the country. Tell us — give us a sense of what is in this piece of legislation.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, this is a huge moment for President Biden.

    Signing this bipartisan infrastructure bill into law is really something, a victory he has been looking for, that he has been wanting.

    I was out on the White House lawn sort of shivering with all the other lawmakers. And what I can tell you and was maybe not visible on camera was that there were so many lawmakers, Republicans and Democrats, standing up and clapping during that event. So, it was really a joyous event, and in a rare show of bipartisanship.

    Now, breaking down what is in the bill, this is a historic bill. As you said, it's $1.2 trillion, $550 billion of new spending.

    Here's some key investments, also. There's $110 billion for highways, bridges and roads, $66 billion for passenger and freight rail. That, of course, includes Amtrak, the president's — one of the president's famous ways to travel. There's $55 billion for broadband Internet, which the White House says is important, especially during a pandemic, where so many people are relying on the Internet.

    And there's $55 billion for water and wastewater to ensure clean drinking water for kids and communities. The other thing to note, Judy, is that the president, the vice president, as well as number of Cabinet officials, the first lady, the second gentleman, they're all going to be fanning out across the country to talk about this infrastructure bill and talk about the larger Build Back Better agenda.

    Now, the president tomorrow is going to kick that off. He's going to New Hampshire. Now, the president's going to travel to Woodstock, New Hampshire. He's going to a Woodstock Bridge. It's an 82-year-old structure that has been on the state's red list for needing repair since 2013.

    Then he's going to travel to Detroit, and he's going to visit a General Motors factory. It's sort of a reopening for the factory, because it's going to be retooled to specialize in building electric vehicles.

    So this is really the president sort of hammering home the idea that this bill is going to have sort of direct impact on people, and that it's going to be, he hopes, felt pretty soon.

    The other thing to note is that this Build Back Better agenda — that's the sort of part two of this that the president was mentioning today even as he was signing the bipartisan infrastructure bill — that bill is still sort of being negotiated.

    But the White House is really hoping that the momentum from this first bill will carry that over.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And to you, Lisa.

    You have read the bill. We know it's historic in a number of categories. Let's — why don't you drill down on a couple of the really important ones, transportation and clean water.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    There is so much to say.

    But these are two areas, both of which are historic in proportions in this bill, and both of which, I, most people will see in their local communities and states in the coming years. So let's talk first about roads and bridges, traditional infrastructure, surface transportation, you call it.

    So let's talk about what exactly is in that. In total, this is new money and expected money, altogether, this bill, over $500 billion. Almost half of this bill is for roads, rails and buses. Now, that includes some big-ticket projects, like New York's Gateway Tunnel. There's been a lot of problems with traffic, of course, getting into Manhattan, getting out of New York City, rails, cars.

    This is something that that state and that the entire Northeast has wanted. That will be funded in this bill. But it's also a billion dollars for things like rural ferries in Alaska. And, Judy, that's one reason that you saw some Republicans, like Don Young of Alaska, vote for this bill, because this bill essentially saves a critical infrastructure service for his state.

    All right, let's talk about water. Also, the most we have ever seen an investment in clean water in this country is in this bill. So what's in it? In terms of water, we have the largest clean water investment in history, as I said, and we will be — they will replace lead pipes, probably not every lead pipe in this country, but it will make big gains in that area, and also tackle PFAS.

    Those are chemicals that are very hard to clean up, finding more and more in places like the Great Lakes. And this bill would tackle those problems that both need a lot of investment.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And back to you, Yamiche.

    As you mentioned, despite this win, the president still has several challenges on his plate. Surely, one of the biggest is inflation, rising rate of inflation.

    How does this bill, if at all, affect that?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, inflation is top of mind for this White House and for President Biden, especially as you see his polling numbers starting to sink and Americans really saying that they're very, very worried about the economy, that the White House insists that this bipartisan infrastructure bill, as well as the Build Back Better Act, that it's going to help with inflation, that it's going to help bring costs down.

    Now, the vast majority of experts, they agree that those bills will likely bring inflation down in the long term, but the short term is the issue. There are a number of experts who say that this bill could actually increase inflation before it brings it down.

    So, there's really sort of a real thing to watch there as Americans are worried and paying more for everything from gas to meat to Thanksgiving dinner.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    All right, watching it across the board.

    Yamiche Alcindor, Lisa Desjardins, thank you both.

Listen to this Segment