Infrastructure & Infection - the state of the USA today

By Heather Cox Richardson

It appears the Senate is on track to pass the bipartisan $1 trillion “hard” infrastructure package as early as tomorrow morning. (UPDATE: It passed!)

As soon as it passes, Democrats will turn to the $3.5 trillion bill, a sweeping measure that would modernize the nation’s approach to infrastructure by including human infrastructure as well as the older “hard” projects. It establishes universal pre-kindergarten for 3- and 4-year-olds, cuts taxes for families with children, makes community college tuition free for two years, and invests in public universities.

It invests in housing, invests in job training, strengthens supply chains, provides green cards to immigrant workers, and protects the borders with new technologies. It expands the Affordable Care Act, invests in home and community-based health care, and reduces the cost of prescription drugs.

It also invests significantly in measures to combat climate change. Focusing on clean electricity, it cuts emissions through tax incentives, polluter fees, and home electrification projects, and replaces federal vehicles with electric ones.

The bill calls for funding these measures with higher taxes on corporations.

The measure will move forward as a budget resolution that simply says how much money the government expects to need next year, and from 2023 to 2031. Once it passes, the various committees will hammer out exactly how much money should go where, and Congress will then hammer that into some form of an agreement.

Once a measure is finalized, the Senate will try to pass the bill through the process of budget reconciliation, which cannot be filibustered, meaning that it can pass with a simple majority.

If, indeed, President Joe Biden manages to pass both a bipartisan bill that pleases some Republicans and the reconciliation bill that pleases progressive Democrats, it will be an astonishing accomplishment.

Meanwhile, Republican policies are not looking very good right now, as Republican governors have stood staunchly against combatting Covid-19 with either masks or vaccines. The virus is now surging again in the U.S., which currently has 17% of the world’s new infections despite having the best vaccine supply. The spike is especially obvious among children, who make up 20% of the nation's new cases, apparently becoming infected in homes where adults are not vaccinated. On ABC, Dr. Mark Kline, Physician In Chief at Children’s Hospital New Orleans, said: “We are hospitalizing record numbers of children. Half of the children in our hospital today are under two years of age, and most of the others are between 5 and 10 years of age.”

Cases continue to rise in Florida and Texas, where governors Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott have prohibited mask mandates. In Florida, journalist Katherine G. Hobbs reports: “Volusia County and Advent Health Orlando are finalizing the purchase of fleets of refrigerated mobile morgues amid Florida's COVID surge.” In Texas, Abbott today called on Texas hospitals to postpone elective procedures in order to clear more beds for Covid patients. The state’s health department is trying to find more health care workers to come to the state to help out.