Bozeman Daily Chronicle: Editorial: A genuine bipartisan effort that will help Montana

President Biden will sign into law a sweeping infrastructure measure on Monday, marking the end of a long process and the investment of some $1.2 trillion in improvements to roads, bridges, drinking water systems, broadband access, passenger rail service and other public transit, floodwater protection, and much more.

For Montana, the occasion will have special significance. This state’s senior senator, Jon Tester, was one of five Democrats who joined five Republicans in months of negotiations that led to the writing of this bill. It was a genuinely bipartisan effort. Even though the bill was a major part of Biden’s domestic agenda, it garnered a total of 32 Republican votes in the House and Senate.

That’s the most bipartisan vote on any major legislation in years. It’s a testament to the statesmanship demonstrated by all the senators who contributed to crafting the bill. And because this bill repurposes funds already appropriated for COVID-19 relief, increases fees on Superfund site cleanups and strengthens tax enforcement on cryptocurrencies, it will only add $256 billion to the federal deficit over 10 years.

This legislation will mean billions of dollars for Montana’s roads, bridges and airports. But perhaps even more importantly, it will provide broadband internet access for the vast underserved stretches of rural Montana. These areas have suffered economically for lack of internet access to high-tech services for farms, ranches and other businesses. And children in these small communities have been particularly hard hit because of remote learning challenges during the pandemic.

It should be noted the other two members of the Montana congressional delegation, Republicans Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Matt Rosendale, voted against the bill. This despite the fact leaders of both parties have been trying to enact major infrastructure investment for at least 10 years.

Amid the hyper-partisan atmosphere that has pervaded Washington lately, the business of governing has largely ground to a halt. So much congressional action has devolved into the perpetual blocking of the opposing party’s agenda at any cost – regardless of the consequences to the American people.

The signing of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will signal real hope that the federal government can still function in constructive ways. And Sen. Tester is commended for his considerable contribution to making it a reality.