Underselling the Infrastructure in Infrastructure Plan
President Joe Biden has taken an arguably expansive view of infrastructure to justify some of the proposed spending in the $2.7 trillion American Jobs Plan. But some Republicans have gone too far with claims about how little in the bill qualifies as infrastructure.
In an interview on “Fox News Sunday” on April 11, for example, Republican Sen. John Thune claimed “only about 6% of the president’s proposal actually goes to what … everyday Americans would describe as infrastructure.” GOP Rep. Liz Cheney used the same figure in her appearance that day on “Face the Nation.”
There are, of course, reasonable disagreements about what counts as infrastructure in the American Jobs Plan, which includes large investments in such things as manufacturing, research and development, and long-term health care services for the elderly.
But Thune’s low figure doesn’t hold up when we counted the very things that Thune describes as infrastructure.
In his Fox News interview, Thune mentioned “water, wastewater” in addition to “highways, roads, bridges, perhaps broadband.” There are some other things that traditionally have fallen under the heading of infrastructure when proposed by Republicans, and we’ll get to those. But for now, let’s stick just to Thune’s list. (Cheney offered no examples other than to broadly say “less than 6% … is actually focused on infrastructure.”)
According to a breakdown of spending by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, the plan includes $115 billion to “modernize bridges, highways, roads, and main streets in critical need of repair.” There’s another $17 billion to “improve ports and waterways.” And there’s $311 billion to build high speed broadband, to invest in power infrastructure, to upgrade and modernize drinking water supplies, replace all lead pipes and service lines and to monitor drinking water quality.