Rebuilding core infrastructure takes commitment, senator says

Infrastructure is in my DNA. My father was Jerry Strobel, a civil engineer, spent his entire career with the Nebraska Department of Transportation back when it was called the Department of Roads.

As chair of the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee, I introduced bills like the Build Nebraska Act. The revenue from that bill has funded over a dozen important infrastructure projects across Nebraska.

But the definition of “infrastructure” should not be expanded to include a policy wish list. If Congress passes a bill to reform Medicare, that’s not infrastructure—it’s health care.

President Joe Biden seems to think they do. His recent proposal, which could top $2.7 trillion, redefines infrastructure to include policies that have nothing to do with what we all know to be traditional infrastructure, such as climate research and federally funded home- or community-care services.

Less than 6% of that $2.7 trillion in the Biden administration bill would go to roads and bridges, barely 4% to broadband, and less than 2% to airports. At the same time, hundreds of billions of dollars would be funneled to housing, Medicaid and electric vehicles.

Infrastructure has always been bipartisan, enjoying widespread support. I would gladly support a bill that takes our many infrastructure problems seriously, and I told President Biden that when I met with him at the White House in early April. But his proposal simply doesn’t do that.

In the Senate, we do this every day. We do it on bills like the HAULS Act, which I reintroduced in March to provide more flexibility for ag and livestock haulers and garnered support from both Republicans and Democrats. My Democratic colleagues and I find common ground on bills like the Rural Spectrum Accessibility Act, which made internet access more widely available in rural areas. We agree more often than we disagree.

History shows that infrastructure is a bipartisan issue, and it can be done again.

—Sen. Deb Fischer, R-NE, is a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.