Lori Berman, Anna Eskamani urge Congress to pass ‘game-changer’ infrastructure package

Elevated overpass with skyline of modern city during sunset.
The fate of the $550 billion deal remains unclear.

Democratic lawmakers Lori Berman and Anna Eskamani are urging Congress to approve a bipartisan infrastructure package backed by President Joe Biden to help expand green energy options in Florida and the U.S.

The Senate is preparing to vote on the $550 billion package this week. The deal includes added spending for public transportation, electric charging stations, high-speed internet and major projects on roads and bridges, among other items.

Biden negotiated the deal with top Senate Democrats and Republicans. But it’s unclear whether the House, narrowly controlled by Democrats, will back the deal. Berman and Eskamani threw their support behind the plan Thursday.

“We need to be partners with the federal government in embracing this infrastructure deal, getting these dollars down to Florida, getting these investments down to Florida, because it’s going to be a game-changer for the people of my district and a game-changer for every single Floridian,” Eskamani said Thursday on a Zoom conference call.

Some Democrats in the U.S. House have balked at the package, arguing a much larger infrastructure deal is needed. But Berman said Congress should move forward on the measure.

“The President’s plan touches countless families in Florida, and particularly in my district, that are struggling with housing and finding good jobs,” Berman said.

“This is a jobs plan. We are going to create tons of new jobs by having this infrastructure program, and they are going to help people in my district get back to work.”

Aliki Moncrief, executive director for Florida Conservation Voters, hosted the call to support the bipartisan infrastructure deal.

“This framework is the largest longterm investment in the country’s infrastructure in nearly a century, and we’re here today because it’s absolutely essential that Congress delivers on this plan,” Moncrief said.

But Moncrief also urged Congress to do more, arguing the bill “must serve as the floor, not the ceiling” for infrastructure and clean energy investment.

The $550 billion package is a pared down version of an alternative proposal with a price tag in the trillions. Democrats have discussed approving that larger bill via the reconciliation process. But with the Senate essentially split 50-50, Democrats can’t afford any defections to pass that larger bill. Already, U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona has said she won’t support the $3.5 trillion plan.

However, more liberal House Democrats have said they won’t act on the smaller bill unless the $3.5 trillion bill also makes it through the Senate. Democrats have an eight-vote advantage in the House. If just a handful of Democrats break off the $550 billion compromise measure, that would be enough to kill the bill.

On Thursday‘s conference call, Florida Democrats tried providing support to push the measure forward.

“It’s so important for us to invest in clean, renewable energy solutions, and that can’t be overstated,” Berman said. “It’s how we’re going to recover and prepare for our future.”

Call participants also discussed work on infrastructure and green energy done at the state level over the past few years. Moncrief argued the U.S. and Florida must do more to protect the state’s environmental quality.

“We are the third most populated state in the country and growing. We use a lot of energy,” Moncrief said.

“We are over-reliant, if not completely addicted to dirty fossil fuels. And if we don’t do anything about that right away, it’s only going to get worse over the next decade.”

Environmental bills have earned some bipartisan support here in Florida. During the 2021 Legislative Session, lawmakers passed bipartisan bills to help combat sea level rise and provide additional funding for environmental programs. Gov. Ron DeSantis signed both of those bills into law.

While Democrats supported those measures, many have said they don’t go far enough. Eskamani echoed that view Thursday.

“Right now, many of my colleagues on the right are talking about sea level rise. But they’re not really talking about what’s causing the sea level rise. Then at the same time, even when it comes to electrification and solar energy, they very much are toeing the line of what utility companies (are doing), versus what’s in the best interest of the state of Florida,” Eskamani argued.

She specifically referenced legislation approved last Session barring local officials from restricting certain fuel sources, perhaps over environmental concerns.

“That’s not because it’s good practice to preempt local governments,” Eskamani said of the bill. “It’s because major special interests are asking that. They want to see their own transition on their own terms. And what we’re saying, and that the Biden administration is saying, is that that’s not good enough. It has to be a lot faster.”

Ryan Nicol

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to [email protected]


One comment

  • Matthew Lusk

    August 5, 2021 at 2:30 pm

    Screw omnibus bills, they are full of pork and pet projects that would not have a chance standing on their own.

Comments are closed.


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