Elizabeth Warren and AOC want to spend $500 billion to create 1 million green infrastructure jobs

Senator elizabeth warren
Sen. Elizabeth Warren. GREG NASH/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
  • Progressives unveiled a bill that would invest $US500 ($646) billion over 10 years on green infrastructure.
  • The bill focuses on reducing carbon emissions while creating 1 million new jobs.
  • With bipartisan talks on infrastructure under way, the parties disagree so far on how to fund it.
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President Joe Biden campaigned on an infrastructure bill focused on job creation and climate change. And now, progressive lawmakers are looking to put his plans into action.

On Thursday, Massachusetts Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, along with Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Andy Levin of Michigan, introduced the BUILD GREEN Infrastructure and Jobs Act, which would invest $US500 ($646) billion over 10 years on state, local, and tribal projects to modernize the country’s infrastructure and fund the transition to electric vehicles.

Lawmakers have begun discussing an upcoming infrastructure bill with Biden, and according to Bloomberg, the progressive group hopes that measures in this bill can make it into the final package Biden will sign.

GOP support for a climate-focused infrastructure bill appears unlikely. Rep. Sam Graves, ranking member of the House Infrastructure panel, said in a statement that he would only support a bill that focuses solely on rebuilding infrastructure.

“Republicans won’t support another Green New Deal disguising itself as a transportation bill,” Graves said.

What the bill wants to do

“The climate crisis is an existential threat to our planet, but it’s also a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, create a million good new jobs, and unleash the best of American innovation,” Warren said in a statement. “The BUILD GREEN Infrastructure and Jobs Act will make the big federal investments necessary to transform our country’s transportation system, confront the racial and economic inequality embedded in our fossil fuel economy, and achieve the ambitious targets for 100% clean energy in America.”

-Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) March 21, 2021

A Data for Progress memo found that investments to electrify transportation would create an estimated 1 million new jobs with strong labor protections, save $US1 ($1) billion per year in avoiding damages to public health, and reduce enough air pollution to prevent 4,200 deaths per year.

According to the press release, along with creating jobs, the bill would:

  • Expand clean mass transit to underserved communities and help modernize infrastructure by covering up to 85% of costs for projects, with an option for the Transportation Secretary to cover 100% of the costs;
  • Reduce carbon emissions by an estimated 21.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide;
  • And dedicate at least 40% of funding to projects in vulnerable and disadvantaged communities.

The Dept. of Transportation would select eligible projects that maximize sustainability and cost savings, according to a bill summary, and all contracts associated with the projects must provide a minimum $US15 ($19) wage per hour and no less than 12 workweeks of paid leave.

On his campaign website, Biden proposed a $US2 ($3) trillion infrastructure bill that would create “millions of good, union jobs” and invest in clean transit, which includes electric vehicles. And Sec. of Transportation Pete Buttigieg has supported electric vehicle usage even before he was confirmed, saying on Twitter in December that it’s “time to build public charging infrastructure powered by clean energy and make it available in all parts of this country.”

-Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) December 21, 2020

Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers have started floating ideas on what an infrastructure bill might look like, but when it comes to funding, Republicans have expressed concern that Democrats will pass it the way they did with the recent stimulus bill, without any Republican votes.

For example, in a CNBC interview, Rep. Peter DeFazio, the chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said he would suggest using reconciliation on an infrastructure bill in a bipartisan meeting with Biden. Graves, who attended that meeting, said in a statement that the bill “cannot be a ‘my way or the highway’ approach like last Congress.”

Moderate Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia said in an “Axios on HBO” interview that an infrastructure bill could be as large as $US4 ($5) trillion if its funded by tax hikes, but he would not support reconciliation.

“I’m not going to do it through reconciliation,” Manchin said. “I am not going to get on a bill that cuts them [Republicans] out completely before we start trying.”

Biden has not yet detailed what his plans are for an upcoming infrastructure bill.