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Senate votes to open floodgates, passes bipartisan $35 billion water infrastructure bill

The Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act passed overwhelmingly by a vote of 89-2.
Image: Democratic leadership holds a news conference after the first Democratic luncheon meeting since COVID-19 restrictions went into effect on Capitol Hill in Washington
Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., at a news conference after the first Democratic luncheon meeting since Covid-19 restrictions went into effect on Capitol Hill on April 13.Erin Scott / Reuters

The Senate on Thursday overwhelmingly passed a $35 billion bill to bolster states' water infrastructure on a bipartisan 89-2 vote.

The only two senators to vote against the bill, the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act, were Republicans Mike Lee of Utah and Ted Cruz of Texas.

One of the bill's authors, Tom Carper, D-Del., said the legislation would "foster economic growth, build climate-resilient infrastructure, and help ensure that all Americans have access to clean, safe water."

The bill would dedicate billions of dollars to upgrade drinking water and wastewater infrastructure projects across the country.

Lawmakers pointed to the 2014 lead contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan, and water outages in Texas this winter as evidence of the need for urgent action.

"Millions of Americans do not have consistent access to clean drinking water. Many more live in areas where a single storm or natural disaster could devastate weak and archaic infrastructure, leading to an outright catastrophe," the bipartisan Senate Environment and Public Works Committee said in a statement supporting the bill.

The legislation includes nearly $30 billion in funding for clean water and drinking water revolving loan funds and an additional $6 billion in grant funding.

"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," said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.

The bill now goes to the House, where it's unclear when it will be considered. Lawmakers there have been focused on a larger infrastructure package.

President Joe Biden spoke about the need to bolster water infrastructure Wednesday night in his address to Congress.

"Today, up to 10 million homes and more than 400,000 schools and child care centers have pipes with lead in them, including for drinking water," said Biden, who said the situation is "a clear and present danger to our children's health."