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The $2 trillion infrastructure bill to build transit, fight climate change and provide economic relief to families is under negotiation

Rep. Scott Peters said Wednesday that San Diego could get millions of dollars for shoring up the coastal rail line and improving wildfire response, from federal infrastructure legislation.

Two legislative packages are expected to put trillions of federal dollars into a host of projects ranging from clean energy and transportation to childcare and prescription drugs plans, Peters said at the virtual town hall meeting about the legislation Wednesday.

“For decades congressional leaders have been talking about our crumbling infrastructure but failed to respond,” Peters said. “This legislation delivers once in a generation investment.”

On Nov. 15 President Joe Biden signed into law the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which provides funding for improving transportation, managing wildfire risks and sea level rise, building a nationwide network of electric vehicle chargers, updating clean water systems and providing universal internet access, Peters said.

San Diego’s coastal Amtrak line is a priority for transportation spending, Peters said, adding that it’s the second busiest rail corridor in the country after the Boston-to-Washington D.C. route. He said he hopes that upgrades will not only make the line more secure but also faster.

“The other rail issue we’re all concerned about is the proximity of the Amtrak line to the bluffs,” he said. “I’m hoping that we don’t just spend (money) to move the rail inland. Let’s take this opportunity to make the trip from San Diego to Los Angeles a two-hour trip instead of a three-hour trip.”

The bill’s suite of improvements could help economic logjams that are bogging down commerce, Peters said.

“This bill responds to recent supply chain problems brought by extreme weather and the pandemic,” he said.

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On Nov. 19, the House of Representatives approved the Build Back Better Act, a roughly $2 trillion package that Peters described as “the most robust investment in American families and the most complete climate response.”

That bill is still under negotiation, as Biden confers with Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, who hasn’t committed to support the plan.

The package proposes an array of social spending that includes setting a $2,000 per year limit on annual prescription drug spending for seniors on Medicare, capping insulin costs at $35 per month for Americans with diabetes and revisions to Medicare drug coverage.

“It includes my plan to reduce prescription drug prices and allows Medicare to directly negotiate drug prices,” Peters said. “It fulfills a goal that the Democrats have worked for for more than 30 years.”

Peters said the bill would also make “life-changing investments in families and children” — it would expand the child tax credit, lower childcare costs for working families, establish free universal preschool and guarantee four weeks of paid family leave, he said.

“Once done, the act will provide a comprehensive response to the economic and social crises that have plagued families for years,” Peters said.

The bill also includes carrots and sticks to reduce climate pollution. It would provide incentives for the development of wind and solar energy, high-speed rail, cleaner aviation fuels and clean, heavy-duty vehicles, but it would levy penalties for wasted methane gas emissions, Peters said.

It would also fund coastal restoration, reforestation and other efforts to bolster natural buffers against climate change, he said.

Congressional Democrats are biting their nails as Biden negotiates with Manchin, the lone holdout on the bill. Peters said that Manchin, a centrist Democrat, is on board with the climate action outlined in the bill but is unpersuaded about some of the social support measures.

“The hiccup seems to be that Senator Manchin is concerned about some of the family support,” Peters said. “He’s not a fan of paid family leave. I understand he’s expressed concern about the child tax credit, which I think is probably the most important part of that bill.”

Although Manchin and Republicans have protested the price tag of the measures, Peters said legislators plan to cover those costs by improving tax enforcement and closing loopholes that allow corporations to avoid paying taxes.