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2024 Montana Primary elections

National Infrastructure Deal Reached But Path Forward Complicated

A bipartisan agreement on a national infrastructure plan is being lauded by President Joe Biden, but it’s far from a done deal. Montana’s U.S. Senators' reaction to the deal may offer a glimpse of the significant hurdles ahead.

Montana U.S. Sen. Jon Tester helped hammer out the $1.2 trillion infrastructure compromise, which he describes as landmark legislation:

“This truly is a once-in-a-century investment in American infrastructure. I’m quite proud to have been a part of this,” Tester says.

Tester, a Democrat, acknowledges the plan’s details are still few and far in between, but he says it provides a solid framework for critical investments in rural infrastructure. Those projects include improvements in roads and bridges, broadband and water infrastructure.

“We’ve got regional water projects in our state that are really important. We get this thing across the finish line and get the President’s signature on it, this is going to put those to bed,” Tester says.

But getting it across that finish line may be tricky. The agreement must now win broader support of both progressive Democrats and conservative Republicans.

President Biden Thursday also announced he would not sign the deal unless it crossed his desk with a separate bill with investments in what a White House briefing refers to as “human infrastructure.” That includes money allocated for childcare and family tax credits.

Montana’s Republican U.S Senator Steve Daines says that position undermines the fundamental purpose of bipartisan deals. 

A statement released by Daines’s office Thursday did not reveal a position on the brokered infrastructure deal, but did include fairly rare and pointed advice to his counterpart, Jon Tester:

“With a 50-50 split Senate and each Senator having the power to stop any legislation from moving forward, Senator Daines hopes that Senator Tester would not allow President Biden to hold any true infrastructure compromise hostage and refuse to support a multi-trillion dollar social welfare package with massive tax increases.” 

The Associated Press reportsthat a “reconciliation” bill would likely include tax increases on people making more than $400,000 a year and an increase in the corporate tax rate.

Edward O’Brien first landed at Montana Public Radio three decades ago as a news intern while attending the UM School of Journalism. He covers a wide range of stories from around the state.  
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