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Senate passes $35B water infrastructure bill

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., urged senators to pass her water and wastewater infrastructure bill on Thursday, arguing it will not only upgrade the system currently in place but also create jobs. Pool Photo By Tom Williams/UPI
Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., urged senators to pass her water and wastewater infrastructure bill on Thursday, arguing it will not only upgrade the system currently in place but also create jobs. Pool Photo By Tom Williams/UPI | License Photo

April 30 (UPI) -- The Senate overwhelming passed a $35 billion infrastructure bill to upgrade the nation's aging water system following a series of water crisis across the country.

The bipartisan Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act passed the Senate 89-2 on Thursday with Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah being the two sole lawmakers against the measure.

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The bill calls for the creation of a variety of water projects with emphasis on upgrading aging infrastructure, increasing funding for lead pipe replacement, creating resilience against climate change and providing assistance to marginalized communities, including investments in the water needs of tribes.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., introduced the bill in mid-March following several water crisis this year in Taxes, Oklahoma and Mississippi that affected millions of Americans.

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From the Senate floor on Thursday, Duckworth told lawmakers during the debate that its past time to invest in their water and wastewater systems, stating more than six million homes get their tap water through lead-service lines.

"Our dwindling and state investment into our water infrastructure are allowing countless Americans to be exposed to pollutants whether it's a sip from the kitchen faucet or living near an outdated water system," Duckworth said.

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She said the issue with water infrastructure is out of sight, out of mind until a tragedy occurs as it did in Texas this past winter when millions were left without safe drinking water in the wake of freezing temperatures.

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Duckworth urged for senators to vote for her bill arguing it would also put Americans back to work to rebuild the nation's "crumbling" water infrastructure.

Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., said more than 40% of the bill's investments will target disadvantaged communities as thousands struggle with not only access to clean water but also with gaining the resources to invest in needed infrastructure.

"Clean water is an essential part of our healthy lives, healthy economics and a healthy environment, but for those communities that can simply not pay back loans for needed water infrastructure, we got to find a better way," he said.

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After the bill was passed, Carper said in a statement that the legislation is part of President Joe Biden's message that politicians need to work with their ideological counterparts to get things done.

"We need to work across the aisle to find lasting, bipartisan solutions to the issues facing the American people, and by doing so, build a better future for all," he said.

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Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said she's "proud" of the work they've done to pass this legislation.

"Passing this bill in a bipartisan way like we did today shows the American people that their elected officials in Congress can work collaboratively together on infrastructure," she said. "This bill also represents the solid work that comes out of good-faith negotiations."

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