WASHINGTON. Infrastructure funding has traditionally been a highly debated bipartisan issue on Capitol Hill, but President Joe Biden’s radical infrastructure bill passed Friday night largely through the party line.
Only 19 members of Congress renounced their parties on the bill, which was passed 228-206, with Democrats largely in favor of the law and Republicans largely opposed.
So who were the 19 legislators – 13 Republicans and six Democrats – who opposed their parties? They can be roughly divided into three camps: Republicans, who consulted with the participants in the negotiations on the bill; Republicans who hold the party’s traditional view that funding infrastructure is more important than fighting the president of another party; and members of a liberal group known as the “Detachment”.
The six Democrats who are part of the progressive group known as The Team are Jamaal Bowman of New York, Corey Bush of Missouri, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna S. Pressley of Massachusetts, and Rashid Tlaib from Michigan – Voted against Biden’s plan to spend $ 550 billion in new funds over 10 years to strengthen roads, bridges and highways, improve Internet access and modernize the national power grid.
The team has grown from four to six since 2019, when Ocasio-Cortez, the most famous progressive on Capitol Hill, entered Congress. Its members were among the leading proponents of the strategy of using the infrastructure bill as leverage to adopt Biden’s broader agenda: the $ 1.85 trillion social safety net and the climate change bill.
Ocasio-Cortez argued that the provisions of Biden’s climate change bill were necessary to offset the environmental impact of the surge in funding for construction projects.
Passing the infrastructure bill without a larger domestic policy package “exacerbates the emissions and climate crisis,” she tweeted in October. “It keeps us in the red emission zone.”
Her position was shared by nearly 100 members of Congress of progressive groups, until the centrist Democrats promised on Friday night that they would vote on the domestic policy bill no later than November 15 if the Congressional budget office determines that its spending is “inconsistent.” with a $ 1.85 trillion estimate put forward by Biden’s staff.
While most progressives agreed to vote in favor of the bill, members of the squad did not find the centrists’ assurances good enough and preferred to stick to their position, demanding the passage of both bills at the same time. Bush said the passing of the Infrastructure Bill alone “compromised our leverage” on a broader law that includes monthly payments to families with children, universal preschool education, health care subsidies and a four-week paid family and health leave program, and compromised the ability of progressive children. to “improve the living conditions of our health care workers, our children, our caregivers, our seniors and the future of our environment.”
However, Pressley waited to make sure the infrastructure bill had enough votes before she voted against the measure.
This position has angered some moderate Democrats. One of them, Rep. Tom Suozzi of New York, equated the opposition of New York’s left-wing compatriots like Ocasio Cortez and Bowman with far-right Republicans like Lee Zeldin of New York to vote against a bill that will channel billions of dollars. in condition for metro, sewerage and broadband access.
“It doesn’t make any sense,” said Suozzi, who is considering running for governor, told reporters at the New York City political conclave in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Saturday. “These are two sides of the same coin: people are so far away, instead of trying to do something to help people and improve their lives. This is what people are tired of. “
Republican “problem solvers”
The eight Republicans who voted for the Infrastructure Bill were Don Bacon of Nebraska, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Andrew Garbarino of New York, Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, John Catko of New York, Tom Reed of New York, Christopher H. Smith from New York. Jersey and Fred Upton of Michigan were part of a bipartisan group of lawmakers who helped negotiate the infrastructure bill this summer, consulting with centrists in the Senate.
The group known as the Problem Solvers, which includes the Republican co-chair Fitzpatrick, once hoped to vote on the bill by up to 29 Republican votes, but saw its members fall away once Rep. Kevin McCarthy. the House minority leader, and other high-ranking Republicans opposed this, stepping up their campaign against Biden’s agenda.
However, with improvements in highways, bridges, dams, public transport, railways, ports, airports, water quality and broadband in the districts, eight members of the group voted in favor of the plan.
Garbarino, who represents part of Long Island, named benefits for New York, including $ 24.9 billion in highways, bridges and transit; $ 15 billion to replace lead drinking water lines; and $ 470 million for Kennedy, LaGuardia, MacArthur and Republic of New York airports are among the reasons he passed the bill.
According to him, the vote “concerned roads, bridges and clean water.” “It was about real people and real action that Congress could take to improve their lives by rebuilding and revitalizing our country’s crumbling infrastructure.”
Republican Infrastructure Traditionalists
The latest group of five Republicans in the House of Representatives have joined Problem Solvers in opposing their party in support of the bill. This group – Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, Don Young of Alaska, Nicole Malliotakis of New York, David B. McKinley of West Virginia, and Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey – can be roughly defined as the party’s traditionalist view of funding infrastructure.
Young, 88, is the longest-serving member of the GOP, representing Alaska for 25 terms. He approved the bill in September, arguing that the party has always supported funding for roads and bridges, and stressing that past infrastructure votes were “damn close” unanimous.
“We need infrastructure in this country now,” Young said. “This is the last opportunity we have to make sure these potholes are patched up, these airports are working properly, the bridges are safe, and our economy can continue to grow.”
Others, much newer in Congress, said they shared Young’s view on the issue.
Malliotakis, who is representing Staten Island for the first time, released a statement explaining her vote, listing various projects that funding could support in her community, including “completing a lane for high-traffic cars on the Staten Island Expressway.” strengthening coastal areas and expanding “our sewers to deal with the next Hurricane Sandy or Hurricane Ida.”
“Simply put, these investments will save not only the time and money of citizens, but also their property and lives,” she said.