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President Biden has signed a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill


There was a rare sight in Washington this afternoon - the president of the United States surrounded by members of both parties. And it happened as President Biden signed a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill.


PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: My message to the American people is this. America's moving again. And your life is going to change for the better.

CORNISH: The bipartisan bill sends hundreds of billions of dollars to states and local governments to upgrade roads, bridges and transit systems. For years, presidents from both parties have said they want to invest in updating the country's infrastructure, but some of the Republicans backing the bill are facing backlash. NPR's Deirdre Walsh, who covers Congress, joins us now. Welcome back.


CORNISH: It's been a running joke in Washington about infrastructure week, which is almost always derailed by some political, you know, snafu. So what's in this new law?

WALSH: It's a massive federal infusion of money that's going to go to all 50 states. There's $100 billion in here for roads and bridges, $65 billion for broadband projects, $39 billion for public transit systems. There's money for airports - that's $25 billion. There's also money for clean drinking water projects, help places like Flint, Mich., where lead poisoning sickened people. That's over $50 billion. In total, this is the most federal money spent on roads and bridges since President Eisenhower. And the president emphasized over and over it's going to create a lot of jobs. The top Republican who helped negotiate the bill, Ohio Senator Rob Portman, who was at the White House today, also said it would ease inflation.

CORNISH: Speaking of Republicans, did a lot of them come to the signing?

WALSH: Not really. Altogether, there were 19 Senate Republicans and 13 House Republicans who voted for the bill, but most of them skipped the White House event today. Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski was there. She's running for reelection in 2022. She's already facing a primary challenge because she voted to impeach former President Trump. Her political brand is really about being an independent and willing to work across the aisle. Portman, who I mentioned earlier, touted what the parties can do when they actually work together. Let's take a listen of what he said today.


ROB PORTMAN: We can start by recognizing that finding common ground to advance the interests of the American people should be rewarded, not attacked.

WALSH: The top Senate Republican, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, was not at the White House today, but he did spend last week traveling around his home state of Kentucky. He voted for the bill and touted the benefits it would bring to rebuild a crumbling bridge there. He called it a godsend. The president made a point to give McConnell a shoutout today for voting for the bill and for talking about its benefits.

CORNISH: So what's the disconnect there? You have some lawmakers talking about bringing home the bacon, so to speak, and then others facing threats.

WALSH: It's odd. It's just this political moment that we're in. In both the House and the Senate, Republican votes were needed to pass the bill and get it over the finish line. And it does give President Joe Biden a big accomplishment. It's worth noting that former President Trump, who has been railing against this deal, proposed a similar infrastructure package when he was president. He's now supporting primary challenges to people who voted for the bill.

Georgia Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene actually tweeted out the list of the 13 House Republicans who voted for the bill last week, and she called them traitors. She also tweeted out the phone numbers of their offices. And several of them are facing, you know, thousands of calls, including some death threats coming into the offices of Michigan Congressman Fred Upton, New York Republican Tom Reed. Last week in New York in Nassau County, police actually arrested a 64-year-old man for threatening to kill New York Congressman Andrew Garbarino, who voted for the bill.

Top Republican leaders on the Hill have been actually silent about these threats. And that just shows how toxic the political environment is right now. We used to see big votes on infrastructure bills, and now it's just another polarizing issue.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Deirdre Walsh. Thanks so much.

WALSH: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Deirdre Walsh is the congress editor for NPR's Washington Desk.