Hallelujah – it’s finally “Infrastructure week”! Everyone says that a bit tongue-in-cheek these days as if it’s some kind of joke. Why? I’ll get to that in a minute.
Last week the House corralled the votes to pass the initial $1trillion dollar bipartisan Infrastructure package. As our congressional representative Mikie Sherrill noted, along with money for modernizing our electrical grid, replacing lead pipes, Superfund site clean-up (an item that her Republican predecessor was also passionate about), there is also the long-awaited funds to move forward with the Gateway Tunnel project, which Sherrill has championed since she first ran for the seat.
Why is “infrastructure week” a joke? Because the previous administration coined the phrase and repeatedly trotted it out to help bolster its reputation to actually lead and get things done – to detract from what was really abject political incompetence. Who can be against infrastructure spending? Who wants to see roads and bridges crumble like the I-35 bridge in Minneapolis in 2007 killing 13 and injuring 145 people? Imagine what kind of chaos we’ll have if there’s a major meltdown on any of the key transit or highway elements that keep our fragile metro transportation system together before things like Gateway can be completed. The Trump administration had every opportunity to work with willing Democrats to get a bill passed. Why were Democrats so willing? Because more so than not, Democrats understand that what Abraham (a Republican Party founder no less) once said: “The legitimate object of government, is to do for a community of people, whatever they need to have done, but can not do, at all, or can not, so well do, for themselves — in their separate, and individual capacities.” We don’t build this system on our own – and we sure don’t rely on the private sector to do it. Eisenhower, ironically another prominent Republican from a long-forgotten era who built our interstate system, clearly understood that. What a socialist!
But this isn’t Ike’s party anymore. Like I pointed out when I ran for congress against “moderate” Rodney Frelinghuysen – “it’s not your father’s Republican Party anymore”. It’s now Trump’s Party…lock, stock, and barrel. Trump failed in part because his ego left him unable to compartmentalize working on legislation while obstructing investigations into his campaign and administration’s misdeeds. Even Nixon passed major legislation in the midst of the Watergate scandal.
But the more corrosive factor in all of this discussion is that the party that Trump leads now views just about all government spending on the public good as “evil socialism.” The infamous Matt Gaetz crowed “I can’t believe Republicans just gave the Democrats their socialism bill.” Charming darling of the right Marjorie Taylor Greene said Republicans who voted with Democrats “handed over their voting cards” to Pelosi to pass Biden’s “Communist takeover of America via so-called infrastructure.” And so the 13 GOP House members who voted for it are now in danger of losing their committee seats. Rep. David McKinley of West Virginia said he voted to help kids in his district who sit in parking lots to do their homework because they didn’t have broadband at home.
So remember that folks. Broadband for every American kid? Socialism. In the eyes of today’s GOP – roads and bridges are a communist plot and having them fall apart delaying traffic or worse – dropping chunks of concrete – is the way to Make America Great Again. For Biden and Pelosi to be able to evoke any kind of bipartisanship out of this crowd is no minor miracle. But I have to wonder what stance any of Mikie Sherrill’s GOP challengers would take on the same measures. Let’s make sure we know. (Side note: the only two GOP reps left in NJ both voted in favor as well.)
Just a closing note: I completely expect criticism that 6 very progressive members (“Squad+2”) of the House also did not vote for the bill – but just like the passage of Obamacare – there were those that thought the measures in the bill didn’t go far enough and were concerned that this vote was giving ground on a larger even more progressive bill yet to pass (the one that will help seniors hear and chew their food – among other things). Nice try if you take that tact. It’s a disingenuous claim straight off the bat.