In The News | Courtney visits Three Rivers, talks Build Back Better, infrastructure
Norwich — U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, addressed a class of about 15 students, along with some faculty members, at Three Rivers Community College on Friday.
Speaking in professor Diba Khan-Bureau’s environmental engineering technology class to about 30 people in all, Courtney discussed a variety of environmental issues facing the region, as well as his views on the infrastructure and Build Back Better bills making their way through the legislative process.
Courtney stopped in from Washington and was introduced by Kem Barfield, the dean of academic and student affairs, who said Courtney has supported Three Rivers in its manufacturing work, its partnership with Electric Boat and environmental areas.
Courtney said the infrastructure and Build Back Better bills are focused on climate change in a way “that none of us could have imagined even a year ago.” He compared past COVID-19 relief bills to natural disaster relief legislation, but said infrastructure and Build Back Better are different. Rather than “keeping the lights on,” he said these bills will be “a pathway to a stronger future for the country.”
In total, the infrastructure package, which has some Republican support, and Build Back Better, which doesn’t, amount to $2.75 trillion. Infrastructure accounts for $1 trillion while Build Back Better accounts for $1.75 trillion. House progressives resisted an effort to vote on the infrastructure deal Thursday. Centrist Democratic Sens. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia have been largely responsible for the holdup on the Senate side, as they’ve balked at including paid family leave, taxing billionaires and setting lower prescription drug prices.
Courtney said it’s very rare for a bill to get passed exactly the way it’s imagined. But following Friday’s appearance at Three Rivers, he did express some disappointment.
“To some degree the die was cast back in January when the Democrats squeaked to a majority,” he said. “I’m frustrated that the prescription drug piece fell off the table. To me that makes no sense, something that has such overwhelming support. We hear about it nonstop. And it would have saved the country money. They’re still doing some kind of inflation cap, but that’s not the same as real price negotiation.”
Courtney, who has been in office since 2006, recalled a debate between former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and former President Donald Trump where not a single question about climate change was asked. Now, he notes, the infrastructure bill is built around the idea of combating climate change, with high-speed rail, modern transit services, more charging stations for electric vehicles and other provisions.
Build Back Better is not deficit spending nor does it involve raising taxes on fuel. Instead, “People and corporations that can afford to contribute more to the federal government and treasury pay for it.” The bill will provide increased funding for federal Pell Grants to help students in need receive financial aid, and it also significantly will lower day care prices. The legislation also will boost job training in manufacturing and health care.
Courtney said Build Back Better also will upgrade the electric grid and invest in clean energy. “As we change how we generate power in this country, particularly offshore wind, the voltage that comes from the generation right now, we don’t have a grid that has the capacity and capability to receive that kind of power,” he said. “Nuclear is included in there, I get asked that a lot with Dominion in the region.”
With State Pier being renovated in New London and its promise of offshore wind energy, this part of the bill is applicable to the region, Courtney said.
He mentioned that President Joe Biden is headed to Scotland for a U.N. Climate Summit. Khan-Bureau asked how can the U.S. show its face there when it and China are the two biggest polluters in the world? Courtney said the rest of the world still looks to the U.S., and Biden had hoped to have at least some of the legislation passed before the summit. “Theoretically it’s still possible that he could have a deliverable while he was there,” he added.
“Biden’s not going to quit on this thing, he isn’t and neither is (Nancy) Pelosi,” Courtney said. “Those two won’t stop until we get something. It might continue to shrink, but I don’t see that happening.”
— By Sten Spinella, Day staff writer
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