HELENA — As expected, the U.S. Senate Tuesday approved a $1.2 trillion bill to bolster the nation’s infrastructure, with Montana’s two senators splitting their votes.
Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, part of a bipartisan group of senators that negotiated the bill, was in the 69-30 majority that voted for the measure. He told Montana reporters it will be a badly needed investment in roads, bridges, water systems, airports, high-speed Internet networks, and more.
“As I travel around the state, and operate (my) farm, I’m very thankful for our highway infrastructure and bridges,” he said. “We cannot take them for granted, and many of them are in disrepair.”
Republican Sen. Steve Daines voted against it, saying it increases the federal debt and is part of a reckless “tax and spend spree” by Democrats that will harm the country.
The measure now heads to the U.S. House, where Tester predicted it will pass sometime this fall and go to the White House for President Biden’s signature.
Tester said he does not believe the bill adds to the federal debt – and that a related $3.5 billion budget resolution that advanced Tuesday will pay for itself as well.
“For those people who stood up and said we can’t afford this right now – well, when can we afford it?” he said. “I would just say, if you want to compete, you have to invest in infrastructure.”
Tester highlighted the basic infrastructure funds in the bill but also talked about other elements, including resources to prevent or mitigate forest fires, upgrading the electrical grid and adding charging stations for electric vehicles, and reducing regulations on livestock haulers.