Congress has finally passed an infrastructure bill. Build Back Better should be next.

The House of Representatives has passed President Joe Biden’s transformational bipartisan infrastructure plan, which Biden will soon sign into law. The passage earned praise from AFSCME President Lee Saunders, who, in a statement, said, “We are turning a corner.”

“The passage of this bill is a watershed moment that is a long time coming,” said Saunders. “It will create good union jobs, providing the shot in the arm our economy and our communities need. It will improve quality of life for all of us – everyone who drives on our roads, who rides public transit, who buys goods that pass through our ports, who depends on clean drinking water and a reliable power grid.”

The $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which has already passed the Senate, would make the largest investment in American history in public transit, passenger rail and clean drinking water, as well as ensure that every American has access to high-speed internet, among other bold investments. 

The bill makes once-in-a-generation investments in areas that affect our everyday lives. These investments include:

  • $110 billion in new funding for roads, bridges and major projects
  • $55 billion to expand access to clean drinking water for households, businesses, schools and child care centers across the country, including funding to replace lead pipes
  • $65 billion to help ensure that every American has access to reliable high-speed internet
  • $66 billion in rail infrastructure, in addition to transit modernization funding
  • $39 billion in new money to modernize public transit (separate from rail)
  • $17 billion in port infrastructure and waterways
  • $25 billion in airports

Saunders pointed out that the vote on Friday, “comes on the immediate heels of a very strong jobs report, with more than half a million jobs created in October, as the virus continues to recede. After more than a year and a half of struggle and challenge, we are starting to turn the corner, and the passage of the infrastructure bill will further accelerate progress.”

Yet, Saunders cautioned: “Congress’ work isn’t done. The House and the Senate both must move immediately to also pass the Build Back Better Act, which will make unprecedented and urgently needed investments in our human infrastructure”

The Build Back Better Act would provide universal pre-kindergarten education for 3- and 4-year-olds and create a four-week annual paid family and medical leave benefit to nearly all America’s workers. It would also give 20 million kids access to quality child care and provide free school meals to 8.7 million children during the school year.

It would allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices, expand affordable access to home care for seniors and people with disabilities, and create a $35 billion hearing aid benefit for senior citizens and those on Medicare.  These investments would be completely paid for – largely by requiring millionaires and large profitable corporations to pay their fair share of taxes.

“Build Back Better would be life-changing for millions upon millions of people,” said Saunders. “It includes the robust support many of our neighbors need to live with greater security and dignity. If you rely on prescription drugs to stay alive, if the affordable housing crisis is devastating your family, if you need access to child care for your kids or home care for your elderly parents, you can’t wait any longer.”

On Saturday, the House passed a procedural vote on the Build Back Better Act, which sets forth rules for debate on the bill.

“Now,” Saunders said, “it’s time to finish the job.”