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Nevada lawmakers hopeful that $1.2T infrastructure bill will pass

WASHINGTON — Nevada lawmakers and business leaders are cautiously optimistic that a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill with funding for Silver State projects will pass in the House, which will begin debate on the legislation as early as Monday.

The bill includes funds for water projects, wildfire prevention, expanded broadband access, highway spending for Interstate 11 from Las Vegas to Phoenix and improvements for Interstate 15 to Southern California, as well as funding and grants for passenger rail.

In all, Nevada could see roughly $4 billion in program funding, including $2.5 billion for highway spending alone, according to White House figures.

But hurdles remain as Democratic factions battle over passage of a larger $3.5 trillion package with spending for climate, education and health, paid for by tax increases.

The $3.5 trillion bill is opposed by Republicans and moderate Democrats.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said following a White House meeting with President Joe Biden last week that the House was on schedule to vote on the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package. But she shied away from saying when the House would vote, because of Democratic divisions that have yet to be resolved.

Hostage negotiations

Progressive Democrats have threatened to tank the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill if the larger $3.5 trillion package with immigration reforms, climate change proposals, child tax credits, education money and tax hikes on wealthier Americans is not completed by the House and Senate soon.

The $3.5 trillion package would have to be passed under reconciliation rules, which allow for certain budget bills to be passed with a simple majority. But the larger bill is opposed by at least two Democratic senators, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

Republicans have watched the Democratic factions throw sharp elbows in the process, which could have consequences in the midterm elections and in swing congressional districts, where the GOP needs just five seats to regain control of the House.

Republican support is expected for the infrastructure bill, but GOP lawmakers have shunned the larger reconciliation legislation as a Democratic wish list that would reverse some of the tax cuts they approved in 2017.

The $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill has passed the Senate, and House approval would send it to Biden for his signature. Democratic Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen were able to tuck money for Nevada into the bill.

In the House, Democratic Reps. Dina Titus, Steven Horsford and Susie Lee have backed the legislation. Republican Rep. Mark Amodei of Nevada also voiced support for some of the funding when he met with the Las Vegas Chamber in Washington last week.

“Everyone was optimistic,” Mary Beth Sewald, Las Vegas Chamber president, said of closed meetings with the state’s lawmakers.

Unions have also backed the bill.

The infrastructure bill would create jobs and increase transportation of trade and tourists to Las Vegas, something the business and labor leaders said would boost the Southern Nevada economy following the economically crippling pandemic.

A representative from Brightline West, a private company that wants to build high-speed rail from Las Vegas to the Los Angeles area, attended the lobbying trip with Las Vegas business leaders. Amtrak also has proposed to reestablish a route from Southern California to Las Vegas.

Rural internet

In crafting the bill in the Senate, Rosen was instrumental in writing language to expand broadband in rural states for telehealth and education, as well as increasing access in urban areas to underserved communities. Nevada could see $100 million for those improvements.

Nevada airports would receive as much as $293 million for improvements.

Cortez Masto and Lee led a bicameral push for $450 million in grant funding for water recycling that would benefit both Nevada and California, particularly at a time when drought has ravaged the West.

And wildfire prevention funds were also tucked into the package by Cortez Masto following the devastating blazes that scorched Western states this summer.

It is undetermined how much of the $8 billion in the infrastructure bill for wildfire prevention and reimbursements would come to Nevada, but the state is expected to receive a portion due to fires that spread in the north and south.

Contact Gary Martin at gmartin@reviewjournal.com. Follow @garymartindc on Twitter.

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