In rare moment, most House Democrats and a handful of House Republicans voted together to pass a bill to spend $1.2 trillion on the country’s infrastructure over the next decade. The same bill previously passed the Senate, also with support from Democrats and Republicans. It is important to note that the bill would have failed without the 13 Republicans who voted for it because a small number of Democrats voted against the bill because it was not linked to the larger multi-trillion dollar “human infrastructure” proposed legislature.
Over half the bill (~$650 billion) is merely appropriating funds for programs that have already been authorized as part of the normal transportation funding process. This includes using the federal gas taxes that are included when you fill up your car. However, the bill includes another ~$550 billion in “supplemental” spending.
There is plenty not to like in this bill. I have always found it objectionable that taxpayers across the country are forced to subsidize subways and passenger rail in the northeast. The bill includes a provision that blatantly discriminates against electric vehicle manufacturers whose workers have chosen not to be unionized.
But there is no doubt that we have woefully underinvested in our country’s infrastructure. As a result, our infrastructure, which was once the envy of the rest of world, is rapidly falling behind, making America less competitive. The World Economic Forum recently ranked the US infrastructure as 13th in the world (see, The Global Competitiveness Report, 2019, pp. 598-599). In Travel & Leisure’s recent survey of the ten best international airports, not a single US airport made the list.
So, I do not begrudge anyone deciding to vote for or against this bill. Frankly, I am not sure how I would have voted had I been in Congress. It would have been nice to have a real debate on some of the provisions in the bill. But instead all we got is more name-calling and partisan gamesmanship.
The reaction of some of the House Republicans after the bill passed was beyond histrionic. Of course, many immediately labeled the 13 Republicans that voted for the bill as RINOs. Marjorie Taylor Greene took it to another level, as she frequently does, dubbing the legislation as part of “Biden’s Communist takeover.” In the Senate, those well-known Communists, Mitch McConnell and Lindsay Graham, voted for the bill.
Most Republicans who opposed the bill were more measured in their reaction. Many fell back on the old saw that the bill would increase the deficit. But much of the new spending was covered by reallocating unspent COVID relief funds. The Congressional Budget Office found that the bill would increase the deficit by $256 billion over the next ten years. That is not even a rounding error on the deficits the CBO is projecting over the next decade. And the same Republicans now so concerned about the national debt were deaf, dumb and blind to the $8.7 trillion added to the national debt during the Trump Administration. Let’s not kid yourselves. The only reason Pelosi decoupled the infrastructure bill from the “human infrastructure” proposal was because the election results last week scared the hell out of the Democrats. The only reason some Republicans are apoplectic with their colleagues who voted for the bill is because they think it helps the Democrats politically. Neither of these political parties give a tinker’s damn about what is best for the American people. Their calculus is entirely based on what benefits them and their party politically.