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US House passes $1.2 trillion Biden infrastructure bill

The bill is one of the pillars of the US president’s $3 trillion economic vision after rebel moderates had earlier blocked a vote on his social welfare expansion.

U.S President Joe Biden spent much of Thursday and Friday on the phone corralling lawmakers. (Reuters)

Democrats have rescued President Joe Biden’s faltering domestic agenda by passing a giant infrastructure package worth $1.2 trillion.

The party leadership in the House of Representatives began Friday aiming to rubber-stamp the infrastructure bill, the biggest upgrade of roads, bridges and waterways in decades, after sending an even bigger social welfare deal, worth up to $1.85 trillion, to the upper chamber.

Despite hours of cajoling lawmakers, party leaders had risked seeing Biden’s two-pronged legislative strategy collapse as they failed to unite the party’s feuding progressive and moderate factions.

But the breakthrough came as lawmakers rubber-stamped the Senate-passed  bill on the House floor by a comfortable 228 votes to 206.

The bill is one of the pillars of his $3 trillion economic vision after rebel moderates had earlier blocked a vote on his social welfare expansion.

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His spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the success was “proof that delivering for the American people is worth all the painful sausage-making.”

Notch in Biden’s belt

Passing the infrastructure package into law required some tricky mathematics with several progressives, still smarting over the moderate rebellion, voting no – but Democrats were able to add 13 Republicans to their side of the ledger.

“After four years of failed ‘infrastructure weeks’ under Trump and Republican control, President Biden delivered on his promise to work across the aisle and shepherd through a historic investment in our nation’s infrastructure,” Jaime Harrison, chairman of the Democratic National Committee said.

Biden, who spent much of Thursday and Friday on the phone corralling lawmakers, watched the vote in the official residence after strategising with his policy and legislative teams, including Vice President Kamala Harris, according to a White House official.

By funding work on roads, bridges and ports and high-speed internet, the White House says it would create millions of high-paying jobs.

The passage of the infrastructure spending marks a legacy-making achievement for Biden, amid plunging personal approval ratings and a humiliating upset defeat for his Democratic Party in the Virginia gubernatorial election.

The votes capped months of tense negotiations on Capitol Hill since the Senate approved the infrastructure package in August, giving it rare bipartisan support in Washington’s polarised political atmosphere.

Most House Republicans withheld their support, however, after former president Donald Trump threatened reprisals for helping to hand Biden a political win.

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