This week, Senate Republicans earnestly fought to save a massive $1.2 trillion infrastructure deal, worried that if it fell through, they’d be labeled the “party of no” by the media and be blamed by their constituents for not working to repair the broken roads, bridges and buildings in their respective hometowns.
There’s no doubt our nation’s infrastructure needs investment. It just doesn’t need the investment right now — when the GOP is the minority party in both the House and Senate and doesn’t hold the White House. From public reports, it appears Republicans are getting little in return for their work. Negotiations stalled earlier this week as Democrats looked to bail out mass transit in liberal, mismanaged urban cities. Democrats have also promised to pass a $3.5 trillion social welfare bill through reconciliation, to include all the elements the GOP has worked so hard to strip from the “bipartisan” plan. This as inflation spikes to a 30-year-high and the federal deficit approaches $30 trillion, or roughly $20,935 in new debt per federal taxpayer, this year.
Back in 2018, Congressional Republicans were happy to be the party of no — when Donald J. Trump was president and proposed his $200 billion infrastructure plan, which now seems modest in comparison. Mr. Trump’s proposal was narrowly focused on the core infrastructure of repairing roads, bridges and highways. It included a broadband initiative. It looked to decrease the timelines of permitting processes, which stall most infrastructure projects, and partner with private industry and local municipalities to leverage the $200 billion in federal spending into a more than $1 trillion investment in America.
At the time, the GOP, which held the majority in the Senate, said Mr. Trump’s proposal was too “rich” and would be a “heavy lift” in Congress. Then Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell repeatedly warned about the impact of the surging federal deficit on future generations and was concerned about how Congress was going to pay for the proposal, especially on the back of the recently passed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. There was no discussion of running the bill through reconciliation.
Mr. Trump’s infrastructure plan became a running joke in Washington — even among the GOP — for being aspirational but unachievable. Mr. Trump embarked on many “infrastructure weeks” during his term, only to see each and everyone fail because there was no heart among the elected Republican bureaucrats in Washington to see it through.
If Republicans would’ve said yes to Mr. Trump then, they could say no to Democrats now. Infrastructure investments would already be underway. There would be no haggling of what the term “infrastructure” actually meant by expanding its definition to child care and free college tuition. There would be no discussions on whether to bail out broken rail and bus systems in large liberal cities, where Democratic mayors decided to invest more in public unions than they did their infrastructure.
But here we are. Senate Republicans are more willing to work with a Democratic White House than they were a Republican one. Ready to abandon their conservative principles for what will be fleeting press accolades and a pat on the back from their good ol’ pal Joe Biden.
Republicans should say no to this $1 trillion boondoggle, work on winning the House and Senate in 2022 and then govern — with infrastructure as their priority — as the majority. That is if they have the heart.