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Dingell Ready To Pass Infrastructure Bill And Get To Work On Larger Spending Plan

Debbie Dingell
Wikipedia Media Commons

This week, the U.S. Senate passed a $1 trillion infrastructure bill with rare, bipartisan support. The U.S. House is expected to pass the bill, but it will not have bipartisan support for a $3.5 trillion budget for the coming fiscal year. 12th District Representative Debbie Dingell joined WEMU's David Fair to discuss where we are and what happens next. 


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FACT SHEET: Historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal


David Fair: This is 89 one WEMU, and I'm David Fair. On Tuesday of this week, the United States Senate passed a one trillion dollar infrastructure bill on a 69 to 30 vote. It now moves to the U.S. House for consideration, but there are hurdles to overcome. Both chambers are in summer recess. Joining us today is 12th District Michigan Congresswoman Debbie Dingell. Thanks for another Friday conversation here on WEMU.

Debbie Dingell: David, I always look forward to them. Good morning and happy Friday the 13th.

David Fair: Oh, you know, it didn't even occur to me it was the 13th. Well, hopefully this conversation will not be jinxed. I know you were both pleased that the measure passed the Senate and have some alterations you'd like to make in the House version. And that would include moving investment in the national electric vehicle charging station from the seven point five billion dollars in the Senate version, up to 85 billion dollars. Now, that's a huge, significant difference.

Debbie Dingell: So, what's really going to happen is we're going to have two bills. So, the bipartisan bill needed to pass. We need to work together. I'm one of those people that thinks that we need to, and it has money in it that will rebuild roads and bridges. It's going to modernize a lot of things without worry about, like our airports and rail system. There's a little money in there for clean drinking water, far from enough, high speed Internet, so that every household in the country can get it. And it'll has, as you say, electric vehicle money in there, but it's only seven point five million. And that's not going to get us very far. And it would also upgrade our power infrastructure. So, everybody who's still without electricity today would be far more resilient to these storms we're having more and more often. But it's not enough. So the bipartisan bill is likely to pass as it was passed by the Senate. But we will have another bill that is part of the whole budget process that we will address many of these issues. We need more money to get lead out of every water pipeline in the country. I feel very strongly that, if we're going to meet the goal of 50 percent electric vehicles by 2030, we have to invest in that electric vehicle infrastructure. There's also going to be things there for child care, which is really in trouble in this country--long term care. We're the only industrialized nation that does nothing to take care of our seniors. Almost a million of them are on waiting lists for home and community care. So, we got to work together. We got to work in addressing a number of these issues. We have got we know what the target is now because after they passed a bipartisan bill in the Senate that went into consideration of the budget for next year, they put a lid on a three point five billion. Now...

David Fair: Trillion.

Debbie Dingell: Trillion. We will now go back and we are not. We go back in a week, we will be there. And I'm not sure all that we're going to be doing, but we are going to be getting working in committees, as well to actually put the meat on the bone on a number of these issues.

David Fair: We have talked about the fact that the infrastructure bill did pass on bipartisan a vote of 69 to 30. And among the Republicans crossing over to help pass that measure was Mitch McConnell, which caught some by surprise. Were you at all surprised by the number of Republicans that did vote in favor, or were you surprised that there weren't more crossover votes?

Debbie Dingell: No, It ended exactly where I thought that it might end. There are a lot of people that need to be able to tell the people back home, hey, the pandemic showed people how people in rural areas, in urban areas don't have access to Internet. Every household needs to have that access. You know, in Michigan, we talk about fixing the damn roads every day. And this is the home of the auto industry. We understand the importance of it. Now we have two Democratic senators, but other states have the things that were included in that bipartisan bill. Many..it doesn't matter if you're Republican or Democrat. It shouldn't matter if you're Republican or Democrat. We need to get those things. And I might also add, by the way, that on the American rescue plan, that really helped so many people who just needed that help in the end across the country. Republicans voted against it, but Republicans have gone out and then with people that have benefited from it, sometimes you might even think they voted for it.

David Fair: Our conversation with Michigan's 12th District congressional representative Debbie Dingell continues on Eighty-Nine one WEMU. Now, the measures that are to be considered are extraordinarily detailed and contained so much. In fact, the infrastructure bill alone is 2700 pages long. Now, do you take time to read every line item because of the length, or do you have staff delineate the matters of importance with you?

Debbie Dingell: Well, I actually did take the bipartisan bill, and I have read it over the course of the last week. It took me a day to even be able to get a copy of it. But staff also needs to read it and work it. And we look together. I mean, there's some things in there that I'm very unhappy about. I mean, they're using this bill, which we have to get to roll back some regulations under NEPA, which is actually a bill that John did that assured transparency whenever you were building out projects as to environmental impact and allowed for communities to have a say when projects were going on. So, we're going to have to figure that part out, too, as well. When...and I found several of them myself because I was reading it. It's horrible reading. It is not like reading a spy novel. But it matters, and it matters to the people of my district. When you look right now with more rain again this week, Southfield was flooded in front of my house for how many? The sixth, seventh time since the end of June. We've got to fix our roads and our bridges, and we place a very broken sewer system. So it matters, and if you want to do a good job and, quite frankly, I do have the lead on a number of critical pieces that will be in all of this. You got to be ready. You got to be prepared.

David Fair: And we know with certainty that not all lawmakers read everything before they cast their own votes and that sometimes allow for pork projects to be included. So, you've already mentioned there are some items in there you think need to be worked on and you don't necessarily like. But how can we as a public ensure our tax dollars are being protected from abuse?

Debbie Dingell: Well, I think we all need to demand that. I'm going to be looking at that. I can already tell you, David, this week I've been very much out doing Congress in your communities, and there are people that don't like some mistruths that they've been told about what's in the bill and what isn't in the bill. But people should take the time. There's going to be lots of things written about this, people on both sides. I hate that I have to use the word "both sides," by the way. This is a bill America needs. We need it. We've got an infrastructure that is worse than many Third World countries. We need to improve it. So, we've got to figure out a way we're going to get this job done. It is a once in a lifetime, for most of us, opportunity, like the programs that came out when Franklin Delano Roosevelt did Social Security programs, Eisenhower built the expressways, the interstate. But that, by the way, it's the last time it was done in Dearborn. You sit in the city of Dearborn, the sewage system and pumps were built in 1920 on one side and 1950 on the other side. They weren't built for the environment of 2020 and going into the next century. So, we all got to get this figured out, and we can't just blast it. We've got to work to get this right.

David Fair: And speaking of working, as you mentioned, you'll return for a few days beginning August 3rd and then come out of recess on September 20th. When, in your estimation, do you expect the infrastructure measure and the subsequent larger budget spending plan to be passed into law?

Debbie Dingell: Well, I would actually say to you that the word recess there is misleading or not accurate. We'll go back the 23rd to hopefully pass a budget. A lot of work going on in that. But then we begin district work. We are not in just district work periods, committee work, virtual committee work. We are still doing committee work virtually because of COVID. And quite frankly, Delta has been pretty serious in Washington, D.C. So, the committees will begin the work of marking up. We're in session a week at the twenty third, go out, maybe that weekend. We'll see how long we're in. But then. The work that will be done on in committee, which will be to become the detailed law that you and I are talking about, actually begins on the 30th. And all of the work by committees must be done by the 15th, and then we'll be brought back together for us to act on at the end of September.

David Fair: Now, all of this is going to get resolved before the end of the year, of course. And as it stands today, the national debt is over 28 trillion dollars. These bills are going to push that even higher, and it's going to have generational impact. At what point do we start putting forth the plans to protect our grandkids and their children from carrying our weight?

Debbie Dingell: We need to worry about the budget. But, you know, there's some things that we need to be doing right now. Billionaires, quite frankly, should be paying taxes and be paying their fair share of taxes. We have to close these loopholes that have been set on. American companies to locate overseas. American companies. How many companies do we have that aren't paying any taxes at all? And quite frankly, it's staggering the number of wealthy people that aren't paying their fair share or aren't paying their taxes. That's a good beginning of how we raise money. And then, when people are working and making good paying wages, they're paying taxes into the Treasury. So, you've got to look at the low hanging fruit right now, which we're not doing. It is a real problem that we have companies that aren't paying taxes, billionaires that aren't paying taxes, and a lot of millionaires that a) aren't paying their fair share or aren't paying their taxes at all. That'll put money at the Treasury Department to go after those that aren't paying their taxes.

David Fair: We will look forward to our next conversation. Thank you so much for the time today.

Debbie Dingell: Thank you, David. Be safe.

David Fair: That is Representative Debbie Dingell. She serves the 12th District in the U.S. House of Representatives and she represents portions of Washtenaw County. I'm David Fair, and this is your community NPR Station, Eighty-Nine one, WEMU FM and WEMU HD, one Ypsilanti.

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at 734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu

Contact David: dfair@emich.edu
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