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I have a guess how the money will get spent because we've done this before.

Everyone will clap themselves on the back, impressed with the top-line number and the vague goodness of "infrastructure". Everyone from lefty socialists to right leaning self identified libertarians will be pleased because if we have one remaining thing we can all agree on, it's infrastructure spending is good. Economists left and right alike will cheer; this spending will stimulate the economy, a little more gas on the fire.

And then we'll hand the state DOTs their checks. And they will go and widen every pointless freeway to nowhere, inducing more driving and more sprawl. They will build new, wider, bridges next to the old bridges. They will spend all of the money on this, and when they're finished, they'll complain they just didn't get enough to fix our "crumbling infrastructure", only enough to expand it. They may even call some of the expansion repair, and they'll definitely call it all "green", somehow.

And we will be poorer for it all, as we already have a half dozen times the infrastructure per person of other wealthy counties. And global warming will continue, and California will burn as they pave new pathways into the burn areas for single family homes. And the cycle of life will continue and in 8 years it will come time to repair our crumbling infrastructure and we'll do it again.

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I fear a lot of this may be true. But one piece of hope: EVs are coming, not because Americans will turn into environmentalists but because it is better technology. They are already cheaper than gas cars on a full lifecycle basis (ie including energy cost and maintenance) and they will soon be cost competitive at initial purchase. Their other limitation - inability to do road trips - has also been largely fixed, although more work needs to be done. Ford has already publicly said they are having trouble keeping up with demand for their new EV models.

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If they hand the money to States and the states spend it badly - shouldn't you be upset at the states? I mean if you can't imagine the money going to California and them not spending it on anything other than paving roads when the state is absolutely dominated by Democrats at almost every level of government...then what makes you expect Congress would be able to do better?

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I am disappointed in the states. But you wouldn't give a million dollars to a toddler. If you know the states are going to fail, stop and rethink. Or do nothing. If the states got nothing, and they have to balance their budgets, they might think a little harder about wasting money widening freeways.

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Wow - if your comparing state governments to toddlers then what is congress?

More to the point, why would you expect Congress to succeed where state governments don't?

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I guess I just don't understand your angle here. My point was that despite the bipartisan cheering, the existing channels we have for distributing this money ensure it will be poorly spent. I don't really care who is more to blame, and I don't claim to have some perfect solution. The only thing I had to offer is that state governments might do better if they weren't spending what they perceive as "free money". Since state governments have to balance their budgets, this might give them more incentive to control the size of their infrastructure because they will have to repair it themselves.

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I guess my point would be that by Congress sending money to the states, you can hope that at least a few of the states will try something new/different that will lead to better outcomes (though may also lead to worse). You also have more influence at the state level than at the federal level so can try to create those positive outcomes more successfully.

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And middle class people will get homes they can afford to own and raise families in, with timely access to good jobs, without threatening the housing security of precarious marginalized renters or the civil rights of homeless drug addicts.

I get that suburban housing and transportation capacity is suboptimal, but it’s not as if it’s pointless. Many preferences are satisfied by this stuff. Many other confrontations are avoided.

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Has anyone been counting Senate votes? I realize it's early yet, but I'm maximally skeptical there are ten Republican votes in the Senate. Seemingly knowledgeable people on Twitter are suggesting only the reconciliation bill will get to Biden's desk. I'm wondering if, in the event that's how this all ends up shaking out, they'll throw some of the contents of the bipartisan bill into the reconciliation bill.

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I have started to freak out about Maggie Hassan’s numbers against Sunnunu in New Hampshire and so I was hoping that this bill would help her. I have not been closely following the odds that the Ds hold their 50 vote majority in the Senate but I am not ready for McConnell to be the majority leader again.

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I’ve seen some disappointment expressed about the size of the EV charging commitment being reduced. I don’t have a specific view on that number, but as a current EV owner I think I can help provide some context.

America is in a better position than Europe or China because a higher percentage of our car owners have a private dedicated place to park their car every evening. So more of our EV fleet is going to be able to charge at home - something that those owners are going to want to do since it is the most convenient option. I’ve seen some people point out the number of gas stations vs number of EV chargers but the point is since so many of our EVs will be able to charge at home we won’t need to replicate all that gas station infrastructure. The other benefit of charging at home is that most of the time that will happen at night when the electrical grid has the most excess capacity, which we need to start thinking about as we start adding these electrical loads.

Although we won’t need to replace all of the gas infrastructure, we will still need public chargers. Even people who charge at home will need to use public chargers when on road trips. That infrastructure actually isn’t too bad right now- the vast majority of major highway corridors are at least passable with EVs but we do need to continue to beef that up. And we also need to address the minority of car owners who don’t have a dedicated parking spot - probably the most effective way to help them would be incentives for their employers to set up charging stations while they are at work as well as additional city center located public fast charging stations (since most of these owners without parking are in city centers).

All of this is to say that adding EV infrastructure is important, but even now we are probably in a better position than many people realize and the task may not be as large and difficult as many may assume.

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Man, if you had asked me at the beginning of the year, I'd have given "Biden passes a bipartisan infrastructure bill" , like, 20% odds.

Luckily, I firmly avoid making these sorts of predictions, thus preserving my all-important lack of accountability.

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If Dems were going to do the "we're not gonna pass bipartisan bill unless we get reconciliation" thing, why did they feel the need to publicly communicate it? Like, I imagine there's a private groupchat of Dems or whatever where they can agree to this strategy without publicizing it and jeopardizing the deal

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Well mainly because it was publicly that way from the very beginning. The first talks around a bipartisan bill died because the GOP wouldn't go anywhere near what Biden and congressional Dems would accept. They all came back to the table expressly on the theory there would be a two track process. The two keys to the new negotiations were 1)getting the GOP members onside and 2)getting the Dem moderates to pinky swear they'd do the reconciliation bill too. The GOP basically bet that the "partisan bill with all the tax increases" would be politically advantageous to them, while the Dems bet that the credit for bipartisanship and happiness with the sum of the two bills would more than offset being slagged in that way.

Well before the deal was done Pelosi had said clearly that the House wouldn't pass (or even vote on) the bipartisan bill until reconciliation was through the Senate. Everybody knew that. The Biden team either misread how a public statement of the same sentiment would land, or Biden just gaffed it himself, or they wanted the gnashing of teeth for some reason.

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Hate to rain on everyone's parade, but I think given Biden et al announced almost immediately they would use reconciliation for spending/taxes that the GOP balked at in the bipartisan bill, instead of actually waiting for this bill to pass, and then having those discussions I expect this deal to be killed.

https://www.politico.com/newsletters/playbook/2021/06/25/graham-biden-made-gop-look-like-fing-idiots-493371?cid=hptb_primary_0

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It's funny and sad that this is being reported like it was some big surprise. Schumer and Pelosi have been saying publicly for weeks that one doesn't happen without the other. Pelosi had been explicit that the bipartisan plan wouldn't get a vote in the House until after reconciliation passed the Senate. GOP negotiators had acknowledged the basic facts here; even McConnell had acknowledged them.

I do think it was a mistake for Biden to answer so directly about his own position; he doesn't need to say he wouldn't sign one bill alone, Pelosi can carry that water for him more quietly. But it was just a gaffe, not an actual change to anybody's understanding of the deal that was struck. His only sin was giving the GOP a hook to hang their faux outrage on.

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Any reason to think 10 Republican Senators will vote for this? Anyone? Bueller?

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That’s my question

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I appreciate the nuance to these takes, and I especially like the extra effort to contextualize what's going on. It's all a bit messy, but in a good way!

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This bill is similar to the proposal put forward by the problem solvers caucus. I think there will be some House Republican votes.

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I think so too, but egos are a thing and it is just a fake that they were not in the room which can be a problem.

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I think fake = fact.

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Fake = fact ok kellyanne Conway

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lol, I deserve that.

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founding

Are there specifics regarding changes to the emissions standards that might be included in this deal? I have not read about that yet, but am very curious. I would think we would see more aggressive standards via EPA regulation than Republicans would agree to in a bill, but a law would lock them in (they could not be easily reversed by a future Republican administration) and make them harder to challenge in court.

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founding

Are there specifics regarding changes to the emissions standards that might be included in this deal? I have not read about that yet, but am very curious. I would think we would see more aggressive standards via EPA regulation than Republicans would agree to in a bill, but a law would lock them in (they could not be easily reversed by a future Republican administration) and make them harder to challenge in court.

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Your premise is that the current Republican party consists of good faith actors. Mathematically, 50+5 =55, so a clear majority of the Senate is in favor. However, the obstructionist wing of the republic party needs only 41 votes to filibuster which they clearly have. McConnell has made it clear that he won't permit any success for Biden's " socialist" programs. Optimism is great Matt, but in this case misplaced,. And yes, that's very sad for our country

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Thanks for the education, nobody on this site was previously aware of the filibuster or the number of votes needed for cloture.

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Sarcasm is unnecessary. There point which you clearly missed is that assumptions off good faith on the part of Senate Republicans have been too often disproven by experience.

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Question if you would - how can Republicans demonstrate good faith WITHOUT voting like a Democrat?

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You are perfectly capable of saying, "I doubt that there are truly 10 Republican votes for this," without the preamble about how the filibuster works.

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In what sense is opposing a Democratic proposal not acting in good faith?

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Excellent. Yeah, the very idea of throwing a lot of money into the broken surface transportation sector isn't great. But it does invest in aspects of the grid and EVs that is worth doing. And it doesn't take away any payfor from the later, better package. The real challenge is timing. Democrats felt like they barely were able to push the ACA over the finish line in late 2009 and early 2010. There's a concern that moderate Democrats will just refuse to vote for a second reconciliation package after this deal is signed. But there's still a lot of legislative time left even if you pick an arbitrary "Nothing pasts after April 1, 2022" deadline.

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"...the very idea of throwing a lot of money into the broken surface transportation sector isn't great."

Why not?

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More highways and more lanes on existing roads will only lead to induced demand and more congestion down the road. Our transportation infrastructure system is generally good enough and the main change needed is focusing on repairing what we have, not the system we have currently where more money prioritizes more highways and lanes.

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Being stuck in traffic lowers productivity, increases pollution, and reduces leisure time. Solving that problem is a good use of money (better, I daresay, than many of the other things the Biden wants to spend money on) even if it induces demand.

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Is Ken in MIA advocating for big government spending? Welcome to the dark side!

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I am not at all advocating that: Biden has spent too much already. All I am saying is that if money is going to be spent, it should be for a productive purpose. I am pretty much resigned to the reality that much of the borrowed money will be squandered.

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Induced demand means more highway lanes will create more congestion in the future. You're not actually solving the problem. It's a temporary solution, at best, compared to investing in transit, changes to housing policy, etc.

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I would love to understand this more. The whole idea behind induced demand is that by creating the extra lanes, you allow more people to travel on them before getting to the same level of congestion. Everyone says this is bad because you don't reduce congestion - but in fact you allow for more flow through for the same period of time.

I'm not sure what the alternative is unless you simply want to reduce the number of people.

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Induced Demand is actually a conflation of 3 different things:

1) People who are already making the journey in question, but choose to make it by other means (public transport, walking etc.) despite *having a car available*, specifically because *traffic is too bad*.

2) People who are not making the journey in question, but would like to, but are not, *specifically because congestion is too bad*

3) Road-building causes the construction of new homes and job centres, which causes more journeys.

These are not the same thing!

And dependant on circumstances, road-building may cause, 1,2, all 3, or none of these things to happen.

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Yeah, I get the concept of induced demand, but in the absence of the kind of radical upzoning that Matt has made his life's work, growing cities need extra lanes regardless for suburban commutes. Plus, plenty of bridges just need fixing, not expansion (see Memphis-Arkansas bridge, West Seattle Bridge)

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And is the additional traffic on the expanded lanes of the main arteries traffic that otherwise wouldn't have occurred (people would have stayed home), or just traffic that otherwise would have just flowed through local streets?

To properly claim that expanding one road induces and overall increase in traffic it seems necessary to do some kind of equilibrium analysis of traffic flow over the road network in a city as a whole. Reducing friction or pressure on one road probably diverts traffic from higher friction roads until a new equilibrium is established based on the new larger capacity of the main artery.

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I understand what induced demand is, but you admitted that the congestion would occur “down the road.” (I took that to mean in the future.)

Change housing policy, sure, if it’ll be part of the solution. But there are plenty of places not well suited for transit solutIons.

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It doesn't violate the laws of physics to have both high quality highways and good trains. In recent years China has built a larger highway system than America's Interstate network AND it's laid down more high speed rail than the rest of the world combined.

Also, like it or not, it seems a near certainty we're going to need good roads forever (hopefully in the not-too-distant future only EVs will use them).

A good political strategy for progressives is to emphasize the jobs that will be created by big infrastructure projects. A bad political strategy for progressives is to state that such projects mean we're all going to sit in snarled traffic because of neglect of roads.

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I think pressing hard on that point is much more likely to kill the bipartisan bill that to boost the odds of reconciliation. Look, Manchin is going to vote for what he wants to vote for. If people want him to agree to more spending on X, Y, or Z they need to convince him it's a good idea.

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I agree there's a risk here, but I think you aren't viewing Manchin's incentives through the right lens.

Progressives in the House want progressive policy more than anything

Manchin wants a *bipartisan bill* that avoids hitting WV fossil fuel industries too hard more than anything

If Manchin gets the bipartisan bill, he could easily walk away from reconciliation and leave Dems with nothing. The only leverage the Left has over Manchin here is that he very clearly finds it *personally important* to show that bipartisanship can work.

Threatening Manchin's precious "bipartisanship" goals is basically the only card the left has to play here

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I think there is a very big difference between "Pressing Joe Manchin to support a clean energy standard and clean energy tax credits that do fuzzy things for clean coal and CCS" and "Pressing Joe Manchin to support the Green New Deal."

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I think that's fair, but the people asking for assurances are also Senators who are saying that the deal he negotiated, which has investments in EVs and grid modernization (the biggest investment in history), has nothing on climate. So he may have his feelings hurt, and egos matter in the Senate.

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You aren't losing something not passed. This bill both accomplishes reasonable things and builds political capital. Realize that Sinema ran as a centrist and will lose Arizona if viewed as liberal.

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Tying the reconciliation bill too closely to the deal threatens losing the republicans. If you blow up the deal by running off the republicans you lose Manchin on reconciliation too. You risk getting nothing passed at all.

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WaPo is already reporting sundry GOP Senators are already up in arms over this issue, and specifically with Biden's statement that he won't sign bipartisan bill without reconciliation bill.

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I'm curious - would you prefer nothing passed to anything being passed?

If so, I'm pretty sure Mitch will be happy to explain to the world that he didn't stop the bipartisan bill, it was the progressives who wouldn't compromise.

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I'm not sure - and I find it better to ask than to assume.

There seems to be a bit of catch 22 in play though, where there is a recognized need for incrementalism, but also the feeling that accepting a small step negates the possibility of a big step. I'm not sure which is more important - taking a step or making sure any step taken is big enough to matter.

From a political perspective, it feels like people's beliefs/desires cloud their understanding of the strategic situation. A bipartisan bill is almost entirely a positive for Biden/Democrats. They get both substantive gains and political benefits.

Republican's share of the political benefits will almost certainly be far less - why would they sign up for something without getting assurances they won't be screwed with reconciliation anyway?

Nor is this situation unique. Matt has talked before that Trump gave Democrats almost everything substantively they wanted in the ACA because he got a lot more political benefits out of it than they did.

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Bah - not the ACA, the CARES act.

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This is a challenging choice for progressives. I think republicans have lost a significant amount of support as they have become more extreme. They have geographic advantages that has made this less painful and they are simply more satisfied with the status quo than progressives as well.

Should democrats become more extreme (important difference in that left does not equal extreme) I think they will began to lose moderates back to the republicans and progressives will lose any chance of passing legislation whatsoever. That thought process might be incorrect though.

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I know we discussed this before, but- I just can't get over that people such as yourself believe what the US Congress passes has any significant effect on the global climate crisis. With America producing 15% of the world's emissions, we could cut our carbon output to 0 in 5 years and still not significantly help the planet. China and India are continuing to produce new coal plants annually- China won't even slow down till 2030! So, like- what's the big deal about a US climate bill? It's literally insignificant.

If this was a global government and we were passing a global law to reduce emissions, I could see this level of emotional intensity on the topic. But what Congress passes has little effect either way- so again, what's the big deal?

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Except that if the US spends a ton of money developing technology that helps to shave that 15% off of world emissions, then perhaps a bunch of other countries can take advantage of that technology as well.

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I think it's wrong-headed. The Senate moderates would have to vote for a reconciliation vote anyway, and this seems less likely if progressive just antagonize them and threaten to blow up their accomplishment.

They have the leverage here, and we need to play ball.

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founding

I'm just worried that 10 Republicans who might be willing to vote for a bipartisan bill, and then look the other way when a reconciliation bill comes the next week, might *not* be willing to vote for a bipartisan bill that is too visibly closely tied to a reconciliation bill they say they are in lockstep against.

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I think you're on firm ground here, and Pelosi's done the heavy lifting already. I'm not enough of a legislative wonk to know whether or not both bills have to be passed "at the same time." But whether they're passed by the Senate on the same day, or on close days in succession, apparently they have to be passed by the Senate *first*. And only then (and provided a reconciliation bill has been passed by the Senate) will she allow a bill (or bills) onto the floor of the House.

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This is the framework they prefer, this is their deal, and dividing the part at this point is more likely to lead to nothing whatsoever. If the bill ends up being killed, it's better to let the GOP own it.

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Pelosi's already on record as indicating her chamber won't vote on a bipartisan Senate bill unless the Senate has likewise already passed a reconciliation bill. So, there's your safeguard right there, if she's true to her word.

(Obviously it's possible nothing at all will make it through the Senate).

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If Pelosi sticks to her guns on that my money is on the whole thing falling apart with nothing getting passed at all.

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