With the 2022 Midterm elections just over a year away and the country still dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, Republicans in Congress have an opportunity to win crucial support of independent voters by moving ahead with the $1.2 billion infrastructure bill currently being worked on in the Senate.
Senate Republicans are rightfully upset with Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and his fellow Democrats’ plan to push through the infrastructure bill and then resort to a backdoor maneuver known as budget reconciliation to pass another $3.5 trillion package to address climate change, child care, and healthcare.
But with a very good chance of taking back control of both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate in 2022, Republicans cannot allow Democrats to take all the credit for an infrastructure bill that includes priorities that the GOP has long championed — chief among them spending increases for transportation and broadband — and one that enjoys broad support from the majority of Americans.
Republicans in the Senate voted against the infrastructure deal, in part over concerns that it will provide an opening for Democrats to push through the larger $3.5 trillion package under special budget reconciliation rules that only require 51 votes.
They are right to be concerned, but that doesn’t mean the opportunity needs to be squandered. With Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, saying on Wednesday that GOP lawmakers and their Democratic counterparts have "an agreement on the major issues and [are] prepared to move forward," it seems likely the infrastructure bill will head once again to the Senate floor.
This piece of legislation addresses numerous issues that have been top priorities of Republican lawmakers for decades — building more roads to connect growing communities and to alleviate worsening congestion, easing the backlog of rehabilitation needs on our existing highways, fixing decaying and dangerous bridges in places like Kentucky, and improving our water and power infrastructure.
And at last, provide opportunities for rural areas and urban metropolises by closing the digital divide with accessible and adequate broadband.
Inside the bitterly divided Beltway, this may be one of the few chances Democrats and Republicans get to positively impact the lives of everyone in this country.
These are changes that Americans want right now, no matter where they fall on the political spectrum. An Associated Press/NORC poll showed that a majority of Americans — from both parties — support aspects of the infrastructure plan, with 59% of respondents saying that improving infrastructure should be a priority on Capitol Hill.
The poll found that 79% of Republican-identifying respondents supported more funding for roads, bridges, and shipping ports, with 87% of Democrats and 80% of independents agreeing.
In a promising sign, the bill also has the backing of two longtime adversaries, big business and big labor. Both the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO have come out in support of the legislation — a sign of the bill’s popularity across a diverse coalition of stakeholders.
Given public support for the infrastructure bill, there may well be electoral consequences for lawmakers who oppose the infrastructure legislation.
While the party that controls the White House typically suffers losses during congressional, shifting demographics and swing voters in the suburbs means that no one should take any vote for granted.
Passage of a bipartisan piece of legislation that enjoys the backing of most of America would not just do something fundamentally good for the country.
It would also rebut the specious claim by Democrats that Republicans have no governing priorities outside of opposing Democratic initiatives.
And it might force Democrats to abandon their highly partisan reconciliation bill.
John Burnett is the Managing Director and Founder of 1 Empire Group consulting firm and a business executive with over 20 years of experience in the financial services and energy pricing industries. A veteran of politics, John is an official with the New York State Republican Party and ran for New York City Comptroller in 2013. An adjunct professor at Hampton University and New York University, John’s editorials on business, the economy, policy, and politics have appeared in HuffPost, U.S. News and World Report, and Washington Examiner. He is also a frequent guest commentator on Fox News, Fox Business News, New York 1, and PIX 11 News. John holds a B.S. with honors from New York University and an MBA from The Johnson School of Management at Cornell University. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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