Hoppy Kercheval, Opinion

‘Pavement doesn’t have a political party’

Every now and then, common sense and at least a modicum of bipartisanship breaks out in Washington. That has happened with the Congressional approval of the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

The House passed the measure  last Friday night, 228 to 206. The Senate passed the bill back in August, 69-30. Specifically, the bill calls for $550 billion in new federal spending, while renewing existing transportation funding.

In the Senate, every Democrat and 19 Republicans, including minority leader Mitch McConnell and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, supported the bill. In the House, 13 Republicans voted for the bill, including First District Representative David McKinley. Second District Representative Alex Mooney and Third District Representative Carol Miller voted against it.

Six members of the liberal House Democratic “Squad” also voted against the bill, meaning it would not have passed without Republican support.

For weeks, the debate in Washington has focused on the process. President Biden and many Democrats linked the infrastructure bill with the larger Build Back Better plan. The obsession over the political implications obfuscated the critically important details of what is in the bill.

Here are some of the key provisions of the infrastructure bill, according to Capito, who worked on the bill as part of her role as ranking member on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee:

○ Over $300 billion over five years for federal highway programs, including $3 billion for West Virginia.

○ $40 billion for bridges over five years, with West Virginia receiving over $500 million.

○ West Virginia will get $195 million out of the $1.25 billion appropriation for Appalachian Development Highway System projects like Corridor H.

○ A $2 billion rural program that will provide grants to highway projects in rural communities, and at least $500 million of those grants must go to ADHS projects (like Corridor H).

○ $48 billion for water and wastewater infrastructure. A portion of this will be combined with additional funding from Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Funds for badly needed upgrades in West Virginia.

○ $65 billion for broadband, including at least $100 million for expansion of broadband in West Virginia.

○ Reauthorization of spending billions to clean up abandoned mine sites. The legislation also creates a new program to remediate orphaned gas and oil wells.

Unfortunately, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the spending will add another $256 billion in debt over the next decade. That is one of the reasons so many Republicans voted against it. “Congress must invest in our nation, not saddle our children and grandchildren with taxes and debt,” said Congresswoman Miller.

But the alternative was to do nothing, which I suspect many Republicans preferred so they could blame President Biden. This was the best option for passage. As for the Squad, they are so obsessed with remaking and expanding the social welfare system that they were willing to scuttle these critical infrastructure projects.

Pavement does not have a political party. Reliable water service is not a partisan issue. Internet speeds do not vary if you are a liberal or conservative. When politicians do the right thing, as they did with the infrastructure bill, the people benefit, and that’s all that really matters.

Hoppy Kercheval is a MetroNews anchor and the longtime host of “Talkline.” Contact him at hoppy.kercheval@wvradio.com.