Frosh GOP senator stops Schumer's fast track for infrastructure bill - why aren't more GOP doing that?

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

A lone Freshman Republican senator threw a wrench into Chuck Schumer’s plan to fast track the infrastructure bill late last night. Around midnight, after day-long negotiations in the Senate, Tennessee Senator Bill Haggerty objected to a cloture vote on the Sinema-Portman substitute amendment. The amendment is the finished product from the bipartisan group of twenty who have been working on an infrastructure bill to bring to the floor for a vote.

Why are some Republicans willing to give the Biden administration a win on a $1 trillion infrastructure bill so that Democrats can move on to a $3.5 trillion bill that throws in everything but the kitchen sink and calls it the second part of the infrastructure bill? The first bill is loaded up with lots of things that don’t fall under traditional infrastructure so why allow it to proceed, especially when the scoring from the Congressional Budget Office came out yesterday and shows the bill will increase the deficit by at least $256 billion dollars? Democrats claimed it wouldn’t increase the deficit, that the spending increases are paid for. Republicans used to care about deficits though it has been a long time since they have proven that so it is refreshing to hear at least one Republican give lip service to that concern. He’s only been in office a few months – he was elected in 2020 – so maybe he’s the one to speak up and slow the process down a bit. For background, Haggerty was the Trump administration’s ambassador to Japan. He ran for the seat held by Lamar Alexander when Alexander didn’t run for re-election.

Schumer wanted a cloture vote Thursday night and that was stopped with Haggerty’s objection. Schumer called for the Senate to reconvene Saturday at noon for the vote and then follow regular order to finish the bill. His statement voices his frustration, as reported in today’s Punchbowl News.

“We’ve worked long, hard and collaboratively to finish this important, bipartisan bill. The Senate has considered 22 amendments during this process and we’ve been willing to consider many more. In fact, we have been trying to vote on amendments all day but have encountered numerous objections from the other side. However, we very much want to finish important bill, so we will reconvene Saturday at noon to vote on cloture [on the Sinema-Portman substitute amendment], and then we will follow the regular order to finish the bill.”

Schumer is eager to get moving to secure a win for Biden, who is seen as desperate for a big legislative win, especially going into the midterm elections. The August recess is quickly approaching and Schumer wants to wrap this up before then. Today about two dozen senators are attending former Senator Mike Enzi’s funeral in Wyoming.

Haggerty’s objection is reasonable and once would have been a completely normal reaction from a Republican. We don’t live in normal times, though, so it being reported as a futile gesture meant to slow the process with little hope of derailing it in the end. That’s true, in the end, but that is the job of the minority – to be the loyal opposition. It shouldn’t be hard for Republicans to try to derail the obscene amounts of money being proposed by the Biden administration. If not now, when?

“Earlier this afternoon, the Congressional Budget Office released its long awaited score for this infrastructure bill. While we’ve heard for weeks that it would be paid for, it’s not. It didn’t just come up short, it came up a quarter of a trillion dollars short. The CBO indicated this bill will increase the deficit by at least $256 billion dollars when it was supposed to break even. Despite this news, I was asked to consent to expedite the process and pass it. I could not, in good conscience, allow that to happen at this hour—especially when the objective of the majority is to hurry up and pass this bill so that they can move quickly to their $3.5 trillion tax-and-spend spree designed to implement the Green New Deal and increase Americans’ dependence on the government so I objected.”

Yesterday, Senator John Thune signaled that the bill will pass and he’s fine with it. He knows that Biden will crow about fulfilling a campaign promise on infrastructure and restoring bipartisan working relationships in Congress. He thinks that up to twenty Republican senators will vote for the bill, which is twice the number needed to avoid a filibuster. Thune spins the Republican support as a good thing, that it will help in the midterm elections if they can point to projects funded in their states by the bill. Mitt Romney agrees and says it would be worse for red states if the bill doesn’t pass.

Senate Republican Whip John Thune (S.D.) said the need to deliver for constituents outweighs the more abstract political calculations over how much the bill might help Biden.

“Irrespective of what’s going on in the politics of the country, if you can get people to work together in a fashion on an issue that’s important to the country’s competitiveness,” it’s a good thing, Thune argued.

“You can look back throughout history and see examples of that, whether it’s 4G or the interstate highway system,” he added, pointing to examples of how federal spending on infrastructure helped the nation’s economy.

“I think Republicans get some benefit from it,” Thune said. “Anytime people are working together to try to get results, I think that in the long term accrues to their benefit.”

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who will vote for the legislation, argued on the Senate floor Thursday that red states would have gotten far less money for infrastructure if GOP senators had refused to negotiate and forced Democrats to pass a bill with only Democratic votes.

“It’s fair to say if Democrats alone write an infrastructure bill, my state of Utah won’t be real happy by the time that’s done,” he said.

How do you feel about government supervision on your driving habits and taxing you for each mile driven? That’s buried in the bill. That will hurt working families the most. A new federal tax will do that.

We know what is coming down the road. This bill will pass, thanks to Republican support and a desire to get along with Democrats. That support is a one-way street but never mind. Republicans never learn that lesson. Next, they will bring up the bigger bill under the budget reconciliation process that will allow them to proceed without any GOP votes. That bill is all about “human infrastructure” like universal daycare, a $15 minimum wage, and of course, the Green New Deal mandates. Trying to throw up some obstacles and hold Democrats to their claim that new spending will be offset is the least the Republicans can do. Trust me, President Unity will continue to trash Republicans at every opportunity either way.