The Senate overwhelmingly authorized $35 billion to improve the nation’s water infrastructure, offering a show of bipartisan support for a sliver of infrastructure legislation even as lawmakers remained divided over the scope of President Biden’s $4 trillion economic agenda.
The sweeping bipartisan vote on an 89 to 2 margin belied the broader divisions over the scope and cost of Mr. Biden’s ambitions to overhaul the nation’s aging public works system. But lawmakers in both parties insisted it was a sign, however small, of the potential for bipartisan cooperation on infrastructure.
The legislation, helmed by senators on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, would boost existing programs intended to improve water quality with the authorization of $35 billion in funds, with about 40 percent set aside in grant funding for small, rural and tribal communities that historically have struggled with inferior systems and poor water quality.
Mr. Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan, which is paired with a $1.8 trillion plan intended to address child care, access to education and improving equity, also provides billions in new spending to address water quality across the country. But with Republicans questioning the scale of the plan, lawmakers have vowed to attempt to find bipartisan compromise on individual provisions.
“The bottom line is very simple: We are moving forward, wherever we can, in a bipartisan way,” said Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader. “So let it be a signal to our Republican colleagues that Senate Democrats want to work together on infrastructure, when and where we can.”
The White House earlier this week issued a statement of support for the legislation, calling it “a good start to the much-needed funding required to provide communities with the water quality they deserve.”
“This legislation aligns with the administration’s goals to upgrade and modernize aging infrastructure, improve the health of children and small and disadvantaged communities, develop new technologies, and help address cybersecurity threats and mitigate dangers from climate change,” the Office of Management and Budget said in a statement of administration policy.
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