Northam, Spanberger say Democrats should stop stalling infrastructure vote

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RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC)- Gov. Ralph Northam and Rep. Abigail Spanberger are pressuring members of their own party to stop stalling a vote on a sweeping infrastructure deal.

The message comes as progressives in the House of Representatives are delaying action on the package in an effort to gain negotiating leverage over a separate social spending plan focused on climate change, childcare and expanding services under Medicare, among other things.

The so-called physical infrastructure bill has already passed with bipartisan support in the Senate. 

At a joint press conference on Tuesday, Spanberger and Northam urged House Democrats to pass the bill and get it to President Joe Biden’s desk as soon as possible. They were joined by members of Laborers’ International Union of North America and Chamber RVA President Brian Anderson.

“This infrastructure bill will provide the support that Virginia and other states badly need to upgrade our systems,” Northam said. 

“Delaying much needed investments only escalates the costs and risks of an aging infrastructure system–a delay our civil engineers believe we can no longer afford,” Spanberger echoed. 

Spanberger had harsher words about the decision to push back the vote in a recent op-ed.

“The House should not hold the completed bill hostage while we continue working on other important legislation,” Spanberger wrote. “Incessant posturing and mixed messaging are slowing down much-needed investments in Virginia’s future.”

Much is at stake for Virginia. 

For example, Spanberger said there are 577 bridges and over 2,124 miles of highway in poor condition. She said that has increased commute times and cost drivers money. If the bill passes, Spanberger expects Virginia to receive $7 billion in aid for highways and $537 million to address deteriorating bridges. 

On top of that, the state is expected to get $1.2 billion to improve public transportation, $386 million for airport developments, $106 million to expand the electric vehicle charging network, $100 million to provide broadband coverage, and $738 million to ensure access to clean drinking water by eliminating lead service lines and pipes. 

Further, the bill includes funding to better prepare Virginia to deal with the impacts of climate change, cyber attacks and extreme weather events. 

“Without major investments in our physical infrastructure we could fail to create thousands of good-paying jobs, fail to foster long term economic growth and fail to stay competitive with nations like China and this failure is not an option,” Spanberger said. 

That said, at least two of four Republicans representing Virginia in Congress are not planning to support the bipartisan deal, which got 69 votes in the Senate.

While none of the state’s GOP Congressmen agreed to an interview on Tuesday, Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-9th) and Rep. Rob Wittman (R-1st) responded with statements. Both expressed that too little of the sweeping package is being spent on “actual infrastructure.” 

“The spending on broadband is not directed enough toward areas that are genuinely unserved, and our region is unlikely to gain much from funding transit or electric vehicle stations for more populous areas,” said Griffith. “Ninth District taxpayers would be on the hook for a bill that would not substantially improve their roads, bridges, or broadband.”

Wittman criticized what he called “Green New Deal provisions” and slammed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for seemingly attempting to tie the fate of the infrastructure bill to the social spending budget reconciliation bill. 

“With inflation hitting historic highs, spending trillions more on the second package, effectively a progressive shopping spree,  would only further squeeze American families,” Wittman said.  “Separately, each is bad. Together, they represent some of the most egregious spending in American history.”

In a recent debate, Democratic Gubernatorial Nominee Terry McAuliffe said the $3.5 trillion price tag proposed by some for social spending was too high. 

While it appears that number will come down, Spanberger wouldn’t say what price tag she would be comfortable with. 

“I’ve always been negotiating for programs, not a specific target dollar,” Spanberger said. 

Some have raised concerns that Democrats will have to choose between watering down proposals or cutting some out of Biden’s Build Back Better Agenda.

Spanberger didn’t specifically say which programs she would be ok with dropping but she said her priorities are addressing the climate crisis and expanding the Child Tax Credit.

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