Why a bipartisan US$1 trillion infrastructure package is a win for Republicans
For Democrats, this legislation becoming law represents the first major win since the Biden administration entered the White House, with perhaps the only other exception being the third pandemic stimulus passed in March.
What’s the infrastructure package?
- So, there’s two parts. The first bill is a US$1 trillion bill, which sets out to improve more traditional infrastructure, like roads and bridges, but also things like water pipes and broadband internet. This passed through the Senate with 19 Republican votes, including Mitch McConnell.
- This bill is going to be paid for through a few small measures, such as using money that was set aside for pandemic relief but never got spent.
- The second bill, which at the moment is about US$3.5 trillion, addresses other Democratic priorities like climate change, health care, child care and family leave.
- This one is called a budget reconciliation bill, which means that it just amends the current budget. And, because it’s just an amendment, it isn’t subject to the filibuster.
- The filibuster, simply put, is talking out a bill. So in this case, this means that Republicans can’t delay the bill by talking, and that only Democrats need to vote for it to pass.
- This second bill has only passed the blueprint phase, which means that it’ll likely be changed before its final passage, but the basic idea has been agreed upon: It’s going to be paid for by raising taxes on the ultrarich people and companies in the country.
Why is this a win for Democrats?
- For Democrats, this legislation becoming law represents the first major win since the Biden administration entered the White House, with perhaps the only other exception being the third pandemic stimulus passed in March.
- It’s widely being seen as proof that President Joe Biden’s main campaign message, which focused on his experience in Washington and ability to reach across the political aisle to get things done, was more than just a campaign message.
- And for congressional Democrats, many of whom are looking down the barrel of the 2022 midterm elections, this bill will serve as proof that Democrats can govern at a high level, contrasting it with the tax cuts seen during the Trump era.
What were some of the responses?
- In response to the first bill being passed, McConnell, who has previously said that his focus was to stop “what the new Biden administration is trying to do to this country,” responded saying, “I was proud to support today’s historic bipartisan infrastructure deal and prove that both sides of the political aisle can still come together around common-sense solutions.”
- One of the key negotiators of the bill, Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Democrat of New Hampshire said, “When we have more people on both sides of the aisle who want to do things in a partisan way, as opposed to figuring out how we can work together, I don’t think that’s in the best interests of the country.”
- “It was really important for the continued relationships within the Senate that are so important to getting things done.”
- “This historic investment in infrastructure is what I believe you, the American people, want, what you’ve been asking for a long, long time,” said Biden from the White House after the bill passed in the Senate.
Why is it a win for Republicans?
- For many Republicans, this bill’s passage will be touted as proof that they do have the ability to work with Democrats both in Congress and in the White House, to govern effectively.
- This is contrary to public perception that Senate Republicans, led by Mitch McConnell, are obstructionists to any form of a Democratic agenda.
- But some say that the passage of the first bill, the US$1 trillion infrastructure bill, would sort of be the Republican’s way of saying that they are, in fact, able to work with Democrats despite public perception. It would also ensure that the Senate filibuster stays intact, which could complicate the second bill, the US$3.5 trillion budget bill.
- In a Washington Post op-ed written by author and weekly columnist Marc Thiessen, he argues that because Republicans were able to work with Democrats here, the need to get rid of the filibuster (which has been justified by saying that Republicans are nothing but obstructionists) disappears.
- This leaves in place a tool that is seemingly very useful for Republicans. And, on top of that, it gives moderate Democrats, such as Joe Manchin or Kyrsten Sinema, leverage to decrease the size of the second bill, which needs their votes to pass.
- Even a win for Democrats, he says, could potentially look like overspending, and have adverse effects in elections. Thiessen concludes that it is likely that all these factors combined will help Republicans win and take control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
- Now the ball is officially in Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s court. It’s up to her to get the legislation passed through the House, which won’t be easy.
- Democrats hold a very slim majority in the House of Representatives, and some more progressive members have said that they’re uninterested in passing the US$1 trillion bill without proof that the second budget bill will pass into law.
- Most analysts think that Pelosi has a good chance of being able to pass the bills, but what’s less clear is just how long it might take.
- It could take only a few weeks, but it’s more likely that it’ll take months for everything to be totally wrapped up in the House.
- And whatever happens, chances are this will be a big subject of discussion for the 2022 midterms and possibly, the 2024 elections.
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