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- The notion that just 10% of the infrastructure bill is "true infrastructure" is a version of a Republican talking point that was inaccurate months ago and has been rendered even more inaccurate by changes in the bill.
- Because President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats split their agenda into an infrastructure-only bill and a second bill that dealt with social safety net spending, the bill that passed the House is virtually all infrastructure spending.
In a long-awaited vote, the U.S. House of Representatives on Nov. 5 approved an infrastructure bill crafted by a bipartisan group of lawmakers and supported by President Joe Biden. The measure, which includes more than $500 billion in new spending plus additional money from reallocated funds, has already passed the Senate and awaits Biden’s signature.
When the House voted, six progressive Democrats opposed it, which would have been enough to tank the bill had 13 Republicans not crossed party lines to vote with most Democrats. (In the earlier Senate vote, 19 Republicans joined all of the chamber’s Democrats in supporting the bill.)
One Republican who voted against the infrastructure bill was Rep. Bob Good from Virginia’s 5th congressional district. He assailed the bill as a Democratic boondoggle during a Nov. 4 interview with John Fredericks, a conservative radio host.
Saying that just 10% of the bill is "true infrastructure" is incredibly off-base, as PolitiFact has pointed out before.
When Biden first proposed what would eventually become the infrastructure bill in April, PolitiFact National gave a Pants on Fire rating to Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., for saying "something less than 6%" of the proposal "is actually focused on infrastructure."
The figure Cheney cited applied to spending on roads, bridges and highways but excluded items in Biden’s proposal that are widely considered to be infrastructure, including public transit, rail, airports, ports, waterways, the electrical grid, drinking water systems and broadband.
Good’s statement is, if anything, more inaccurate than Cheney’s, because several large elements of the original proposal that had the weakest claims to be considered "infrastructure" were stricken from the bill that passed both chambers.
The transformation of the bill happened because Biden and congressional leaders decided to seek bipartisan buy-in for a pure infrastructure bill and then vote separately on a set of safety-net measures that are more polarizing between, and within, the parties.
For instance, when Cheney made her statement, Biden was seeking $400 billion for expanding access to long-term, home and community-based care under Medicaid. That never made it into the bill that passed both chambers.
Other elements of Biden’s original plan fell into a gray area, fitting under some definitions of infrastructure but not others. These included $590 billion for research and development and domestic manufacturing, $400 billion in clean energy tax credits and $328 billion for capital investments in housing, schools, child care centers, veterans hospitals and other federal buildings.
But these did not make it into the final infrastructure bill. Instead, the bill that passed Congress consisted almost entirely of traditional infrastructure provisions.
Here’s one categorization by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, an independent group that scrutinizes federal spending.
• Roads, bridges and major projects: $110 billion
• Passenger and freight rail: $66 billion
• Public transit: $39 billion
• Airports: $25 billion
• Ports and waterways: $17 billion
• Electric vehicles: $15 billion
• Road safety: $11 billion
• Reconnecting communities: $1 billion
• Electricity infrastructure: $73 billion
• Broadband: $65 billion
• Water infrastructure, including lead pipe replacement: $55 billion
• Resiliency and Western water storage: $50 billion
• Environmental remediation: $21 billion
Total: $548 billion
A few of these categories might be called infrastructure-adjacent rather than pure infrastructure, such as road safety and environmental remediation. But even if you set those two categories aside, roughly 94% of the spending is allocated to categories that are pretty clearly infrastructure — not the 10% Good said.
The bill will provide Good’s home state of Virginia $7 billion for highway repairs and more than $537 million for bridge work over the next five years, according to White House estimates.
Why does Good say only 10% of the money is going to "true infrastructure?" We asked his office three times for an explanation but did not get one.
Good is not alone in making the 10% claim. PolitiFact National recently gave a Pants of Fire to Rep. Lisa McClain, R-Mich., for a similar comment. She said in the bill "only 10% is actual infrastructure."
Funding for airports, ports, waterways, broadband, the electric grid and drinking water systems are "not only infrastructure but critical infrastructure," Robert Greer, an associate professor in public service and administration at the Texas A&M University Bush School of Government and Public Service, told PolitiFact National in April.
Adie Tomer, a fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program, agreed.
"There is no reason to exclude traditional infrastructure categories — transportation, water resources, energy, and telecommunications — when assessing" Biden’s agenda, Tomer said in April. "For decades, and in some cases centuries, the federal government has supported direct investment in these physical capital systems and related policies like workforce development and planning grants."
Good said that in the infrastructure bill that just passed the House, "only 10% is true infrastructure."
This is a version of a Republican talking point that was inaccurate months ago and has been rendered even more inaccurate since then. Because Biden and congressional Democrats split their agenda into an infrastructure-only bill and a separate measure that deals with social safety-net spending, the bill that passed the House was almost entirely pure infrastructure spending.
We rate Good’s statement Pants on Fire!
Rep. Bob Good, Radio interview, Nov. 4, 2021 (29:37 mark)
Good, Twitter video, Oct. 29, 2021
Good, Interview with 13 News, Nov. 9, 2021 (0:50 mark)
Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives, Roll Call 369, HR 3684, Nov. 5, 2021
PolitiFact, "GOP Rep. Lisa McClain’s Pants on Fire claim that infrastructure bill is only 10% infrastructure," Nov. 8, 2021
PolitiFact, "Liz Cheney’s dubious claim that just 6% of Biden plan is ‘infrastructure,’" April 13, 2021
Congress.gov, "HR 3684 - Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act," accessed Nov. 9. 2021
The White House, "The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will Deliver for Virginia," Aug. 4, 2021
Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, "Infrastructure Plan Will Add $400 Billion to the Deficit, CBO Finds," Aug. 5, 2021
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