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WASHINGTON — The Senate easily passed the trillion-dollar infrastructure bill Tuesday with Utah's two Republican senators voting on opposite sides as expected.
The bipartisan plan to fix the nation's crumbling roads and bridges now goes to the House, where Democratic leaders intend to tie it to a $3.5 trillion "human infrastructure" bill through the budget reconciliation process later this year.
Utah's four Republican House members have not signaled their intention on the bill, though at least one has expressed reservation about it.
The 69-30 vote on the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act comes after months of sometimes torturous negotiations between Congress and the White House, and while it marks a major milestone toward signing the measure into law, many more hurdles remain, according to Politico.
Immediately after the vote, the Senate took up the Democrats' $3.5 trillion budget proposal.
Sen. Mitt Romney, who was among those in the thick of the talks, applauded the infrastructure bill's passage. He was one of 19 Republicans who voted for the measure.
"For decades, elected officials have talked about addressing our nation's aging infrastructure," he said in a statement. "While this bill is not perfect — as is the case with a true compromise — it provides a once-in-a-generation investment in our country's physical infrastructure without raising taxes. That is what people and communities across the country demanded of us."
In addition to not having to raise taxes, the bill is paid for, Romney said.
Sen. Mike Lee made several attempts to amend the bill before voting against it. He disputes proponents' claims that the plan is paid for and said it would add to the national debt and drive up inflation.
"I am sorely disappointed that the Senate chose to pass this irresponsible and so-called 'infrastructure' bill," he said.
I am sorely disappointed that the Senate chose to pass this irresponsible and so-called 'infrastructure' bill.
–Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah
Lee said the legislation drastically expands federal power, "increases spending without legitimate 'pay-fors,' exacerbates our already dangerous inflation, and it facilitates burdensome taxes and regulations that will hamper and harm our infrastructure."
"Ultimately, it will be the American people who will be forced to pay the exorbitant price," he said, adding he is "deeply concerned" with the $3.5 trillion spending plan now before the Senate.
The infrastructure package, a key part of President Joe Biden's agenda, calls for $550 billion in new spending over five years above projected federal levels, making it one of the biggest expenditures on the nation's roads, bridges, water systems, broadband and power grid in years.
The plan would provide Utah $3 billion for roads and highways, $200 million for running water to homes in the Navajo Nation and $50 million for the Central Utah Project. Hundreds of millions of dollars would also be headed to Utah for broadband expansion in rural areas, wildfire management and mitigation, and public transit.
"As one of the fastest-growing states in the country, Utah is in serious need of additional infrastructure," Romney said. "I'm proud to have helped negotiate this bill because it gave Utah a seat at the table and benefits Americans across the country."
While this bill is not perfect ... it provides a once-in-a-generation investment in our country's physical infrastructure without raising taxes.
–Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah
According to a new public opinion survey reported in UtahPolicy.com, 61% of Utahns support some type of infrastructure package being passed, with only 27% opposed.
Strong support exists for key items in the legislation, including upgrading water systems and storage capability, improving the nation's cybersecurity infrastructure, overhauling roads, bridges and rail lines, updating the electric grid and encouraging more products to be made in the U.S. to reduce economic reliance on China.
The survey of 600 Utah registered voters was conducted July 12-14 and was commissioned for the Utah chapter of The Nature Conservancy by the polling firm Public Opinion Strategies.
The poll also showed that while Utahns strongly support the physical infrastructure bill, they do not favor the $3.5 trillion "human infrastructure" bill.
Democrats have insisted that the newly passed infrastructure bill be paired with a $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation legislation that will cover other "social infrastructure" along with clean energy. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has said she will not move the bipartisan infrastructure package until the Senate has completed its reconciliation bill, which will push any final passage into fall at the earliest, according to Politico.
Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, said he favors spending on infrastructure but has concerns the bill will increase the national debt.
"We've spent trillions upon trillions upon trillions on COVID," he said last week. "That's my hesitation. The money that's in that for actual infrastructure spending, I absolutely support and will fight for that spending."
Rep. Blake Moore, R-Utah, said he applauds the bipartisan effort in the Senate and intends to work with the Problem Solvers Caucus, made up of 29 House Republican and 29 House Democrats, to find who intends to vote against the $3.5 trillion budget proposal.
If there are a lot who oppose the bill, many would be willing to come to the table on the infrastructure package, he said on KSLNewsradio's "Dave and Dujanovic Show."
"If this gets lumped in to a massive spending bill, like Speaker Pelosi has kind of highlighted, then you're not going to get any Republican support. If it's a stand-alone, you'll get some Republican support," Moore said.
The bill would get much more Republican support if five "brave" Democrats are willing to buck their party on the budget bill, he said.
A group of six moderate Democrats have circulated a letter addressed to Pelosi that urges her to bring the bipartisan legislation to the House floor as a stand-alone vote, according to the Hill.