Texas Republicans claim Biden infrastructure bill goes too far

Interstates 10 and 610 intersect in Houston, Texas during evening rush hour shot from about 1000 feet overhead. (Courtesy photo)

AUSTIN — Several Republican lawmakers representing Texas agreed there is a need for renewed infrastructure investment nationwide and even acknowledged its direct usefulness to Texas, yet all 23 of the state's conservative representatives in Congress voted against the recently signed $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

The law promises Texas approximately $35.44 billion in funding to shore up roads and bridges, expand universal and reliable broadband access and ensure safe drinking water. It also sets aside money to expand the state’s electric vehicle charging network and prepare infrastructure for the impacts of climate change, cyber attacks and extreme weather events.

Rep. Troy Nehls, whose district includes parts of the Houston-metro area, said he voted against the bill because it provides money for electric vehicle charging stations — “an assault on oil and gas” — and because it only allotted a small percentage— “10%” of total funding — toward meaningful infrastructure like roads and bridges.

But of the total $35.44 billion, more than $30.4 billion — or nearly 86% of the total — is earmarked specifically for roads, bridges, waterways and expanding rural broadband, according to White House documents. The remainder will fund wildfire and cyberattack protection as well and public transportation and airport investments.

The bill also dedicates $3.5 billion to weatherize energy infrastructure across the country in response to extreme weather events, but the exact dollar amount Texas will receive on this line item is not yet known.

According to White House data, Texas has experienced 67 extreme weather events from 2010 to 2020 costing the state up to $200 billion in damages. This includes devastating hurricanes like Hurricane Harvey in 2017 which had a direct impact on Nehls’s constituents and left $125 billion in damage.

Nonetheless, Nehls said he couldn’t support it.

“Don't get me wrong, there are some good things in the bill, but it's still a bad bill,” Nehls said. “There's too much bad in the bill.”

For example, he said the bill tags $408 million for electric vehicle charging stations in Texas. Nehls said it is not the responsibility of taxpayers to build EV stations as it is also not the responsibility of taxpayers to build gas stations.

While he noted that the country is moving toward more renewable energy sources, he accused the Biden Administration of “trying to jam it down our throat.”

“If I have to vote again today, I would vote the same way,” Nehls said.

Rep. Pat Fallon, whose district is located in northeast Texas, said he could not support the bill because it is “chock-full of wasteful spending and radical policies,” adding that Congress should have focused solely on roads, bridges, waterways and expanding rural broadband.

“The federal government has a role to play in the maintenance of our nation’s infrastructure, but the legislation signed by President Biden is not a package I can support,” Fallon said.

Fallon added that if Democratic leaders continue to push similar legislation, it “will cripple our economy,” even as some state economists have said infrastructure funding is the safest economic stimulus bet to make.

Oppositely, all 13 Texas Democratic representatives voted in favor of the bill, many touting how it will only bring positive economic results to their districts..

Colin Allred, who represents communities in northeast Dallas, said the investments will create jobs and reduce congestion for his constituents.

“Because of our rapid growth in North Texas, investment in infrastructure isn’t just optional—it is a necessity. This bill does just that,” Allred said. “Everything in this package will work to create jobs, reduce congestion and grow our economy.”

Similarly, Rep. Henry Cuellar highlighted in a statement the bill’s ability to bring 2 million U.S. jobs per year over the course of a decade.

“This historic infrastructure investment is a win for my district, a win for Texas, and a win for all Americans,” Cuellar said. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to invest critical funding for our crumbling roads, bridges, and other physical infrastructure.”

Here is what Texas is expected to receive:

  • Federal highway programs: $26.9 billion
  • Public transportation: $3.3 billion
  • Drinking water infrastructure (and removing lead pipes): $2.9 billion
  • Airports: $1.2 billion
  • Bridge replacement and repairs: $537 million
  • Electric vehicle charging network: $408 million
  • Broadband expansion: $100 million minimum
  • Wildfire protection: $53 million
  • Cyberattacks protection: $42 million

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