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Sen. Durbin: $1.2T Infrastructure Bill Will Have ‘Profound Impact’

 U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin said Thursday the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill he helped pass this week will provide much-needed improvements for roads, bridges, airports, and railways across the state and the entire country.

“It has been six years or even longer since we have had an infrastructure bill, and never one of this significance,” the Illinois Democrat told reporters during a Zoom news conference. “This is going to have a profound impact on America, especially on our state of Illinois.

“We are talking about investing over the next five years $550 billion in new spending— over and above the annual regular spending for infrastructure.”

Durbin said the bill, a key piece in the Biden Administration’s economic agenda, includes $350 billion for major road and bridge products, with nearly $10 billion of that coming to Illinois. He said the state also will get about $4 billion of the $89 billion dedicated to investments in public transportation.

Other areas Durbin highlighted include $25 billion to modernize airports, $55 billion toward improving water treatment and quality, $66 billion for upgrading passenger rail service, and $65 billion to expand broadband service.

“This is a major investment,” he said. “There's many other aspects of the bill, but Illinois is going to be a winner because of this infrastructure bill which is now on its way over to the House.”

Durbin said the infrastructure legislation and a corresponding $3.5 trillion budget resolution will make “a significant difference in the future of America” — provided they both get through the House and reach the president’s desk.

While 19 Republican senators voted in favor of the infrastructure plan, the vote on the reconciliation spending bill broke 50-49 along party lines. Durbin said Senate Democrats had set aside some of the infrastructure items they sought to secure GOP support, and suggested House progressives and conservatives will need to act similarly to push the legislation forward.

“We made dramatic compromises in the infrastructure bill; It was truly a bipartisan bill,” he said. “We had to give in in some areas that are important to me: I think we should have put more resources into coming up with resiliency so that the American economy can respond strongly to climate-changing events, and more money in renewable and sustainable energy in the future.

“So we compromise to reach our goal. Some of them may have to show some compromise so that we can ultimately have a work product that serves a nation.”

U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Moline, said House Democratic leadership is tying the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package to the larger $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill vastly expanding the national social safety net.

"This is going to change the way America looks, and America moves, and if we're successful on the other part of it, it will change how American families live, and really improve peoples' way of life," Bustos said. "And I'm really excited about the prospects.

She's optimistic about the chances of the legislation, but acknowledged House Democrats might have to go it alone.

"I hope that we can get our friends across the aisle to get on board," Bustos said. "I'm not sure if that's going to happen. But if they can't get on board, we're going to do everything we can to pass it one way or another."

U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood, D-Peoria, said he needs time to review the 2,000-page infrastructure bill before determining whether or not he will support it. He said he’s concerned the package is built on deficit spending, but called the bipartisanship “healthy for our democracy.”

“Frankly, the six years that I've been fortunate to be in this job, I think it's been a deficiency that we haven't passed a federal infrastructure bill,” said LaHood. “We've talked a lot about it, (but) we haven't been able to do it. So I'm looking forward to looking at how it affects central Illinois, what projects we're going to be able to fund.

“Those are things that I'll look at to make sure that this is a wise use of taxpayer money. But there's no doubt we need good infrastructure on our roads and our bridges and our airports and our rail systems, our locks and dams on the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. So I look forward to reading it and making a determination.”

Durbin said some of the major components of the budget resolution include tax cuts for working families and families with children, investing in child wellness and education, expanding Medicare coverage, increasing family paid medical leave, and climate initiatives with a goal of cutting the nation’s carbon emissions in half by 2030.

“This is all paid for; this is not added to the deficit. It will be paid for by have corporations and individuals making over $400,000 year pay their fair share of taxes,” said Durbin. “I think this is a dramatic change, will be, in America for the better, (to) help families across the board cope with the costs of raising kids and making certain that they are making ends meet.”

Copyright 2021 WCBU. To see more, visit WCBU.

Joe Deacon is a correspondent for WGLT. He started working for WGLT in 2019.
Tim Shelley is the Assignment Editor and Digital Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.