Senate infrastructure plan a boost for Florida | Editorial
Congressional Democrats should not overreach on overall spending package.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) outside the Senate Chamber celebrates the passage of the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package on Tuesday in Washington, DC.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) outside the Senate Chamber celebrates the passage of the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package on Tuesday in Washington, DC.
This article represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.
Published Aug. 11, 2021

The infrastructure plan the Senate passed Tuesday is a boon to Florida, a bipartisan achievement and a much-needed investment in the nation’s future. It was too bad, but entirely predictable, that Florida’s two senators could not hoist themselves from the partisan sideline to do what was best for the Sunshine State. As the bill heads to an uncertain fate in the House, congressional Democrats need to cement this victory by avoiding the temptation to over reach.

The vote, 69-30, capped weeks of bipartisan negotiations, and Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, joined 18 colleagues from his party in approving the $1 trillion package. The bill calls for $550 billion in new spending over five years, with $110 billion for roads and bridges, $66 billion for rail, $42 billion for ports and airports and $39 billion for public transit. The measure also includes $65 billion to expand high-speed internet, $73 billion to modernize the nation’s power grid and tens of billions of dollars for water, transportation safety and climate resilience projects, among other spending.

Florida Republican Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott both voted “no” on the package, with Scott complaining that “the Democrats want to spend all the money, but they don’t want to take responsibility for the debt.” Where was the Republican concern for debt when tax cuts and runaway spending under then-President Donald Trump added nearly $4 trillion to the deficit?

Whether they are road-testing a talking point for reelection or as they mull a presidential run in 2024, Rubio and Scott failed to promote the economic interests of the Sunshine State. The White House estimates that the bill would send $13 billion to Florida for highway projects and $245 million for bridge replacement projects over the next five years. It also estimates that Florida would receive $2.6 billion for public transportation, $198 million to expand electric vehicle charging networks across the state and a minimum of $100 million to expand broadband access.

As the nation’s third-largest state, Florida also stands to benefit from the new spending on infrastructure across the country. Better roads, ports and airports are new pipelines for Florida’s tourism and export sectors. Expanded access to high-speed internet means new markets. Improved mobility and hardening for climate change also brings new opportunities for growth, coastal protection and commercial research.

The bill faces a shaky path in the House, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said her chamber will not take up the legislation until the Senate passes a separate $3.5 trillion spending plan that Republicans uniformly oppose. While Senate Democrats pushed through a $3.5 trillion budget framework on a party-line vote early Wednesday, two key moderates — Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — said they voted in support to begin writing the legislation. But both have signaled they want the final cost of the social spending to drop.

Congress has a meaningful infrastructure package within reach. It’s a bipartisan accomplishment for both parties and a legislative victory for President Joe Biden. Moderate and progressive Democrats need to focus on a win. That requires a practical spending plan and a speedy timetable moving forward.

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Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, Sherri Day, Sebastian Dortch, John Hill, Jim Verhulst and Chairman and CEO Paul Tash. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.