As senators take up a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure framework, Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick and his peers are pushing for its passage.
“We believe that this bill we put together was the product of input from all parties, on all spectrums, from all corners of America,” said Fitzpatrick (R-Bucks) told WBCB News. “Nobody is totally in love with it, but everybody’s okay with it and that’s the essence of compromise. 80 percent of something is better than 100 percent of nothing.”
Senators introduce the infrastructure bill late Sunday with support from 67 members of the chamber. Among them are 17 Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
Fitzpatrick pointed to a Problem Solvers Caucus press conference Friday. He co-leads the bipartisan caucus. About two dozen senators and representatives from both parties joined together to voice their support for the framework (BIF), calling a “pragmatic solution.”
The congressman from Levittown said the plan may face opposition from the more extreme ends of both parties. Particularly, some progressives in the House say the package does not go far enough.
“And then they want to kill it because it doesn’t go far enough in their eyes, which makes no sense,” said Fitzpatrick. “If they think it makes some progress advancing the ball down the field, maybe not as much to their liking, but at least significantly, you’d think they’d support that.”
Importantly for Republicans, the proposal includes no new taxes to fund itself. Part of the funding will come from repurposing COVID-19 money and recaptured unemployment insurance.
One of the highlights from the BIF is $110 billion in new funds for roads, bridges, and major projects. $40 billion has been set aside for bridge repair, replacement, or rehabilitation.
“We take for granted the structural integrity of our bridges and we have a lot of them in our region given our proximity to multiple states in our area,” Fitzpatrick said. He cited an NPR story which found tens of thousands of bridges in the country are structurally deficient.
“You don’t want to wait until it’s too late to fix something like that.”
Meantime, Fitzpatrick adds there’s historic amounts of money for public transit systems like SEPTA and Amtrak. There’s $39 billion set aside for modernizing public transit.
“This is the largest federal investment in public transit in our country’s history.”
As Senators just introduced the BIF Sunday night, it does not yet have any earmarks or specific project funding. Fitzpatrick emphasized the bill is still open to amendments and new iterations, but SEPTA riders can expect some significant upgrades.
SEPTA will be able to expand several stations, according to the congressman. Funds will also go toward better lighting for improved safety, help for handicap accessibility, and modernizing for a high speed rail line.
“Then there’s a lot of money spent on electric vehicle charging stations,” said Fitzpatrick. “Obviously that’s something we want to start getting ahead of the curve on.”
He added there would be $2.5 billion for zero-emission buses. Over the past few years, SEPTA has tried to convert its bus fleet to battery-powered buses.
“That’s something China has sort of gotten out ahead of us on, so that was a priority of the administration.”
The bill also has a provision for enforcing against unemployment insurance fraud.
As for the future, Fitzpatrick hopes the deal lays the foundation for future compromise.
“For the first time in this Congress, the first time in this administration, you have a bipartisan, bicameral piece of legislation that has the support of the White House,” said Fitzpatrick. “We haven’t seen that yet this Congress. We may not see it again this Congress which is why we have to seize this moment.”
Fitzpatrick laid out some of the spending highlights from the current package:
- $1.2 trillion over eight years
- $110 billion in new funds for roads, bridges, and major projects
- $40 billion in new funds for bridge repair, replacement, or rehabilitation
- $66 billion for rail
- $65 billion for broadband
- $5 billion for clean drinking water programs, including PFAS
- $21 billion for environmental remediation
- $50 billion for flooding and coastal resiliency
- $39 billion for new transit funding to modernize transit
- $25 billion for airports
- $17 billion for port infrastructure
- $11 billion for transportation safety programs
- $7.5 billion for electric vehicle charging stations
- $2.5 billion for zero-emission buses
- $2.5 billion for zero-emission ferries