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Sen. Daines voting "no" on federal infrastructure bill

Cites increase in federal debt
Posted at 3:12 PM, Aug 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-05 17:30:31-04

HELENA — Montana Republican U.S. Sen. Steve Daines said Thursday he’ll be voting against the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill before the Senate, calling it a budget-buster that is “absolutely unacceptable” at this time.

Daines said while supporters of the bill promised it would not increase the national debt, the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the package will increase federal debt by $256 billion over the next decade.

He also noted that congressional Democrats want to pass an additional $3.5 trillion budget bill.

“The Democrats are taking our country in the wrong direction and heaping huge amounts of debt on future generations,” he said in a statement.

The Senate this week has been debating the infrastructure bill, negotiated by a bipartisan group of senators that includes Montana Democrat Jon Tester. A final vote in the Senate is expected in the coming days.

The nonpartisan CBO released its estimate of the bill’s debt impact Thursday. National news outlets said the number could make passage of the bill more difficult.

However, supporters of the bill have said the CBO estimate was not unexpected, and that it doesn’t include some of the revenue that supporters believe will help finance the package.

The bill needs at least 60 votes to pass. Seventeen Republicans and all 50 members of the Democratic caucus voted last week to begin debate on the measure, indicating a degree of bipartisan support.

The package includes funding for roads, bridges, high-speed Internet networks, airports and water systems and will create thousands of jobs, Tester has said.

He said Thursday the bill contains $2.82 billion for Montana highway construction and maintenance over the next five years, $225 million for bridges and $144 million for airports.

“When I started negotiating this legislation with my colleagues, I told them that Montana’s roads and highways are crumbling and that repairing them was one of my top priorities,” he said.

Daines also criticized the bill Thursday for containing what he called “far-left” provisions, such as $43 million for installing electric-vehicle charging stations in Montana when there are less than 1,000 electric vehicles in the state, and a “pathway” for instituting a new tax based on vehicle-miles driven.