Fact Check: Does Only 11 Percent of Bill Go Toward 'Real Infrastructure,' as Trump Claims?

The Claim

Shortly after a bipartisan group of lawmakers gave final passage to President Joe Biden's $1.2 trillion bill to improve and rebuild the nation's aging infrastructure, Donald Trump's office released a statement condemning both the legislation and the 13 GOP lawmakers who helped get it across the finish line.

"Very sad that the RINOs in the House and Senate gave Biden and Democrats a victory on the 'Non-Infrastructure' Bill," the statement, released Sunday, read. "Where only 11% of the money being wasted goes to real infrastructure."

Though the former president did not provide any sources for this evaluation, the statement, along with similar sentiments, was widely shared and cited on social media, including Twitter and Facebook.

The Facts

While it is unclear how Trump arrived at 11 percent or what criteria he used to define "real infrastructure," the claim appears to revive earlier arguments, made by conservative politicians and public figures back in April, that center on Biden's original $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan.

There were several iterations of the claim. One came from former Office of Management and Budget Director Russell Vought, who told Fox News on April 1 that out of "the $2 trillion in the bill, only about 5 to 7 percent of it is actual roads and bridges and ports and things that you and I would say is real infrastructure." But that claim effectively boiled down to arguments that the bulk of the spending wouldn't be allocated to "traditional" infrastructure projects.

These arguments largely rested on a very specific definition of "public infrastructure," targeting broader elements of the original $2.3 trillion proposal that were included under the "infrastructure" umbrella. Even with a narrow definition, the arguments were assessed to be inaccurate or misleading by independent fact checks. Trump's 11 percent figure—bumped up to be more reflective of the significantly slimmed-down final version of the bill that was approved by Congress—is questionable for similar reasons.

The 2,702-page bipartisan bill, summarized in a fact sheet issued by the White House, contains $550 billion in new spending, in addition to funding allocated each year for various infrastructure projects. The allocation for roads and bridges ($110 billion), railroads ($66 billion), airports ($25 billion) and ports ($17 billion) alone totals $218 billion, which is just over 18 percent of the overall spending over the 10-year period— significantly higher than the 11 percent touted by Trump.

An additional $240 billion is going toward upgrading and improving the nation's power grids ($73 billion), water infrastructure ($55 billion, plus another $8 billion for Western water infrastructure in response to ongoing droughts across the West), public transit systems ($39 billion) and broadband ($65 billion). In the past, all of that has typically fallen under the "public infrastructure" umbrella and would raise the share of "real infrastructure" to at least 38 percent.

The addition of more contentious elements that arguably fall under a looser definition of public infrastructure—such as safety enhancements ($11 billion), electric vehicle charging stations ($7.5 billion) and electric school buses ($7.5 billion), along with $47 billion for cybersecurity and climate change mitigation—would tip the total over 44 percent.

In fact, redefining the concept of public infrastructure to its narrowest meaning would go against Trump's—and the GOP's—own criteria, which Trump revealed on numerous occasions during his time in office. Examples include the Trump White House's promotion of its $200 billion infrastructure proposal in 2018, which included federal grants for rail and water system upgrades, as well as his administration's public transit initiative in Nashville, which was promoted under the infrastructure development umbrella.

In a January 31, 2019, executive order on "Strengthening Buy-American Preferences for Infrastructure Projects," Trump said "infrastructure projects" are defined as those developing physical assets for the general public in various sectors.

These are listed in the order as "surface transportation, including roadways, bridges, railroads, and transit; aviation; ports, including navigational channels; water resources projects; energy production, generation, and storage, including from fossil-fuels, renewable, nuclear, and hydroelectric sources; electricity transmission; gas, oil, and propane storage and transmission; electric, oil, natural gas, and propane distribution systems; broadband internet; pipelines; stormwater and sewer infrastructure; drinking water infrastructure; cybersecurity; and any other sector designated through a notice published in the Federal Register by the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council."

While Republicans' "5 or 6 percent" claims earlier this year, which targeted Biden's original plan, may have been off the mark, they were supported by the argument that the bill's authors' definition of infrastructure (which included R&D and manufacturing, home care, housing and clean energy tax credits) appeared to be unjustifiably broad. But many of those elements were stripped from the legislation in the ensuing negotiations. This led to a much more streamlined final bill, with more than a third of the funding allocated toward "real infrastructure" projects, and directly contradicts Trump's assertion.

Newsweek reached out to Trump's press office for comment but did not hear back before publication.

The Ruling

Fact Check - Mostly False

Mostly False.

FACT CHECK BY Newsweek

There is some room for debate around the specific—and evolving—definition of what constitutes "public infrastructure." But the 11 percent figure cited, without evidence or sources, by Trump as the share of the total allocated to "real infrastructure" is inaccurate.

Donald Trump leaving Trump Tower
Former President Donald Trump lambasted the bipartisan infrastructure bill in a statement issued Sunday, after the legislation was passed in Congress. Above, Trump leaves Manhattan's Trump Tower on October 18. James Devaney/GC Images/Getty Images