Strange bedfellows on fed infrastructure bill

Pressley, Taylor Greene find themselves on same side

THEY SAY politics can make strange bedfellows, and the vote over the weekend on President Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill was no exception.

The bill passed 228-206 with the help of 13 Republicans who chose infrastructure over ideology. Six far-left Democrats joined with Republicans in opposing the bill, uniting Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, the far-right fan of Donald Trump who claimed the legislation represented a “Communist takeover of America.”

Pressley said she voted no because the infrastructure bill was not being paired with an even larger bill called the Build Back Better Act dealing with health, family, and climate change programs. 

“I refuse to choose between the livelihoods of the union workers who build our highways and bridges, and the childcare and healthcare workers who care for our children, elderly, and disabled loved ones. I refuse to choose between our crumbling roads, bridges, and public transit system, and our crumbling housing stock. I refuse to pit community member against community member,” Pressley said in a statement.

Pressley was not criticized in Massachusetts for her no vote. Supporters of the legislation instead focused on the money it will bring to the state over the next five years for roadway improvements ($4.2 billion), bridge replacements ($1.1 billion), public transit ($2.5 billion), water infrastructure ($1.1 billion), and electric vehicle charging stations, broadband access, and airport investments (a total of $407 million).

On top of the $9 billion Massachusetts is expected to collect, the state will also be able to compete for billions of more dollars that will be awarded by the federal government on a competitive basis. State transportation officials are hoping they can land a significant chunk of the competitive grant money for the $1 billion I-90 Allston interchange project and the multi-billion-dollar East-West rail connection.

The infrastructure bill represents a huge infusion of federal aid, and the money comes at a time when the state and its municipalities are already flush with billions of dollars in federal funds. State coffers are also swelling, with surplus tax revenues mounting there as well.

“We’re very, very happy to be on the receiving end of more federal money,” said House Speaker Ron Mariano on Monday at a State House press conference with Gov. Charlie Baker and Senate President Karen Spilka. “It’s a great opportunity for us.”

Neither Mariano nor Baker criticized Pressley for voting against the legislation.

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Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

“She’s an elected official,” Mariano said. “She makes decisions based on the facts that she’s presented with and I have no insight as to why that was a no vote. I’m sure she had her reasons.”

Baker said he agreed with Mariano. “I’ve been saying for a very long time that the infrastructure bill was a great opportunity to do something really important for the country, for the Commonwealth. I’m very glad that it passed,” he said. “I think it presents a unique opportunity for us and for other states if we’re strategic and smart about it and take full advantage of the so-called allocations, which in many cases require state funding.”