President Joe Biden's steady persistence and devotion to bipartisanship has paid off in U.S. House passage of a $1.2 trillion, long-sought infrastructure bill that that affirms what can be achieved by working together.
The late Friday vote hinged on the critical support of 13 Republicans who ignored threats from the far-right and did what they saw as best for the country. Admittedly, the 13 came mostly from swing districts, but that served only to make them more responsive to what has been an overlooked middle in these polarizing times.
The same cannot be said for the half-dozen Democrats who stubbornly refused to vote for a bill that will bring badly needed funding for roads, bridges, transit, rail, ports, safer drinking water, power grid investments and broadband that has yet to reach all parts of the country. Among those holdouts, regrettably, was Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, who joined with every Republican member of the Minnesota delegation in opposition.
That foolish refusal to compromise nearly cost this nation another opportunity to make a historic level of improvements and investments needed to move the economy along and better prepare it for increasingly intense competition from abroad.
Mark Weitenbeck, treasurer of the Wisconsin Association of Railroad Passengers, made particular note of the rail improvements, saying in a New York Times report that "While we have been doing nothing, the Chinese have been rebuilding 20,000 miles of high-speed rail line."
The White House has projected that the new spending will create about 2 million jobs per year over the next decade. Had Democrats been forced to depend on a strictly Democratic vote, the bill would have failed.
Months ago, 19 Senate Republicans joined Democrats for passage in the Senate. Denying the president a win was ultimately less important than moving the country forward. That is a sentiment that hearkens back to earlier, less polarized times and is refreshing to see.
Critics will find plenty to hate in the bill, which is the product of years of negotiations that predate even former President Donald Trump's ultimately fruitless push for "Infrastructure Week."
But the fact remains that much of the country's unfinished business may at long last be completed. From cleaning up abandoned coal mines to extending broadband across the most rural reaches, this bill will address long-standing public works challenges that will foster progress in ways that cannot yet be fully imagined.
Minnesota alone has 661 bridges and nearly 5,000 miles of highway in dire need of repair, costing Minnesota drivers an estimated $543 per year in vehicle repairs that are a result of bad roads. More than 80,000 Minnesotans in rural communities across the state still await the broadband connectivity that has fostered so much economic development elsewhere. Investment in roads, bridges and broadband is on the way now, thanks to Biden's bill.
At the time of Senate passage, Democratic Sen. Tina Smith, of Minnesota, said the bill would "mean billions of dollars in resources" that would repair Minnesota roads, bridges, airports and waterways, clearing out a backlog that otherwise would fall to state taxpayers or continue a path of deterioration.
The small, shifting coalitions that brought a historic investment in the nation's infrastructure can and should be deployed to similar effect on the upcoming "Build Back Better" bill. Once negotiated, it will not have everything Democrats want. It will and should have some things Republicans want. Such is the nature of compromise. We urge both sides to continue working together on reaching that elusive balance.