On June 4th Pete DeFazio (D-OR) introduced H.R. 3684— the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act which was meant to provide funding for local infrastructure projects around the country, including for:
roads, bridges, and major projects;
passenger and freight rail;
highway and pedestrian safety;
ports and waterways;
power and grid reliability and resiliency;
resiliency, including funding for coastal resiliency, ecosystem restoration, and weatherization;
clean school buses and ferries;
electric vehicle charging;
addressing legacy pollution by cleaning up Brownfield and Superfund sites and reclaiming abandoned mines; and
Western Water Infrastructure.
On November 5, it passed the House 228-206, just 13 Republicans voting in favor. 200 Republicans followed their leaders and voted NO. The 13 pro-infrastructure Republicans included Anthony Gonzalez (OH), who is retiring after voting to impeach Trump, David McKinley (WV), who was beaten in a primary by a MAGAt who voted against the bill, Adam Kinzinger (IL), who is retiring after voting to impeach Trump, Tom Reed (NY), who is retiring from Congress after a sex scandal, John Katko (NY), who is retiring after voting to impeach Trump, Fred Upton (NY), who is retiring after voting to impeach Trump and swing district Republicans Jeff Van Drew (NJ), Chris Smith (NJ), Nicole Malliotakis (NY), Andrew Garbarino (NY), Bryan Fitzpatrick (PA), Don Bacon (NE) and Don Young (AK).
After passage, the Republicans who voted in favor were subject to abuse and death threats from the MAGA movement, after QAnon Congresswoman Marjorie Traitor Greene worked herself up into a rage and accused the 13 Republicans of being “traitors.” Less than a week after passage, the Associated Press reported that Republicans who voted for it were savaged by Trump and that Greene, after calling them traitors, tweeted out their names and office telephone numbers.
“This madness has to stop,” said Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) an 18-term moderate, who said his offices received dozens of threatening calls following his yes vote. That included one obscenity-laced rant that aides provided in which the caller repeatedly called Upton a “traitor” and expressed hope that the lawmaker, his family and aides would die.
Upton closed his two Michigan offices for a day and reopened them after increasing their security.
…But for many Republicans, infrastructure projects— once an issue the two parties would reflexively work together on for mutual and national benefit— now offer a complex political calculation.
“When it comes to policy these days, we’re basically divided into two tribes. And you stick with your tribe and you don’t try to help the other tribe,” said Glen Bolger, a GOP pollster and strategist.
As president, Trump repeatedly promised his own massive infrastructure plan but never produced one, making the phrase “infrastructure week” a Washington synonym for “pipe dream.” But he opposes the current package, and his ability to rally his conservative supporters against those who cross him was a factor as GOP lawmakers decided how to vote.
Even so, hard-right cries for retaliation against the 13 pro-infrastructure Republicans, largely moderates from the Northeast and Midwest, have prompted their own pushback.
“This notion that we’re going to have people that are on the fringe, in terms of the Marjorie Taylor Greenes of the world and others, imposing some kind of a purity test on substance is lunacy,” said Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY).
…In an interview, the leader of the conservative House Freedom Caucus said GOP lawmakers should consider removing from their posts the 10 of the 13 defectors who are the senior Republican on committees and subcommittees. “I respect their right to vote their districts and their conscience. But that doesn’t mean that they should get the privilege of leading” House Republicans, said Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ).
At a private Florida dinner Monday to bolster House GOP campaign prospects, Trump said he loves House Republicans but not the 13 who voted for the bill, according to an attendee who described Trump’s remarks on condition of anonymity.
Earlier, House GOP leaders tweeted, and then deleted, that “Americans won’t forget” a vote for the “socialist” infrastructure bill. “Time to name names and hold these fake republicans accountable,” tweeted Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO).
This morning, CNN followed-up on the year-old story. Edward-Isaac Dovere and Sarah Fortinsky started their report with a good example, Tom Emmer (R-MN), who heads the RNCC (the Republicans’ version of the DCCC). Last November, they wrote, Emmer “released a statement slamming the passage of the freshly approved infrastructure law he referred to as ‘President Biden’s multi-trillion dollar socialist wish list.’ Then in June, Emmer– the House Republican campaign chairman leading attacks on Democrats for supporting the law– quietly submitted a wish of his own. In a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Emmer expressed his hearty support for a multimillion dollar grant to improve part of Highway 65 in his district. The work was critical, Emmer argued, not just for his constituents, but for people all over Minnesota. Crashes were leading to fatalities. Congestion was leading to huge delays. Plus, Emmer added, “this grant also strives to serve as a social justice measure.”
Emmer’s plea is one of dozens obtained by CNN in response to a public records request, full of instances like Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville modulating his tone from accusing the law of “using fuzzy math and IOU’s to hide the real cost,” to appealing to Buttigieg because “as a former mayor, you understand better than anyone the time and money that goes into applying for highly competitive grants.
The letter writers include high profile attackers of government spending, as well as several in tight reelection races, such as Florida Rep. María Elvira Salazar and California Rep. David Valadao, who like Emmer, slammed the Biden law in public and then behind the scenes asked for money from it.
…While some Republican members who opposed the law have already been criticized for praising projects made possible by it, these letters went a step further, going out of their way to argue for even more spending back home.
All typed out on the standard blue and white letterhead for the House and Senate, the letters are full of the graciousness and politesse of official government correspondence, and make no mention of their votes against the infrastructure law.
None cite “socialism” or “radical spending.” No one included a paragraph about House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy calling the law “rushed and irresponsible,” or Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene calling the Republicans who voted for it “traitors.” Often, the letters signed by members of the House and Senate appeal using the same terms that they derided Democrats for using, from “economic growth” to “sustainability” benefits.
Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar, a leading Biden critic who explained his vote against what he called a “phony” infrastructure bill by issuing a statement that “this bill only serves to advance the America Last’s socialist agenda, while completely lacking fiscal responsibility,” wrote three separate letters between March and July advocating for projects in his district. They’d enhance quality of life, Gosar wrote. They’d ease congestion and boost the economy. They’d alleviate bottlenecks and improve rural living conditions.
Gosar’s spokesperson said the congressman was “not obligated to vote for a bill of which he supports 80% of the funding if 20% is horrifically absurd,” but that “once appropriated and authorized, Congressman Gosar is free, and quite willing, to fight for the funding authorized to benefit good projects.”
Kentucky Rep. Andy Barr called the bill a “big government socialist agenda.” He later wrote three letters of his own on behalf of three different projects, also citing their importance for safety and job growth. Barr’s spokesperson said that the congressman couldn’t vote for the full bill because of its overall cost and money he called “giveaways to the green energy industry,” and that all the grants he supported were for traditional transportation funding programs. Those programs, though, would not have been funded if the infrastructure bill hadn’t passed.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul said he voted against the bill because it typified “wasteful spending,” which would deepen the national debt. Paul wrote 10 different letters petitioning for more of that money coming into Kentucky, including for a community development organization working to expand a riverwalk, improve three stretches of roads, to strengthen a dam, support the revitalization of an old Internal Revenue Service facility in Covington, improve streets in Lexington and modernizing a bridge between northern Kentucky and Cincinnati, Ohio which he argued would “promote continued economic development, ease congestion, improve air quality, and support job growth throughout the region” for what would be “profound national and regional significance.”
“Opposition to a spending bill does not always mean opposition to the goal of that spending; opposition to a spending bill can mean opposition to spending that adds to the deficit and is not offset with spending cuts elsewhere,” argued a Paul spokesperson.
None of the projects that Gosar, Barr or Paul wrote on behalf of have so far been awarded grants, according to the announcements made by the Transportation Department. But of the nine projects Sen. Marsha Blackburn, who last year said the infrastructure bill was full of “frivolous left-wing programs that add to our nation’s debt,” wrote in support of, three were awarded so far, for a total of over $60 million.
The Transportation Department has left open the possibility that the applications will still be awarded through future grant programs.
In an interview with CNN, Buttigieg said “it’s hard not to chuckle” when seeing the letters from members who voted against the infrastructure law, or by seeing some of these members brag back home about the letters they’ve written– including Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert, who called the bill “garbage” but then touted advocating for $33 million for a new bridge.
“Obviously, it’s good for their districts, which is why it’s probably good for America,” Buttigieg argued.
Salazar joined several of her Democratic colleagues from the Miami area in signing two letters looking for more money to improve the city’s ports. Both letters were also signed by Republican Rep. Carlos Giménez, who like Salazar, voted against the infrastructure bill.
Salazar is running against Annette Taddeo, a progressive state Senator with a long record of activism on behalf of Miami residents, supporting issues like the living wage and safe drinking water that have been opposed by Salazar. If you’d like to help replace Salazar with Taddeo, you can contribute to her campaign here. FL-27 is a Democratic-leaning district held by a Republican, basically because the DCCC picked bad candidates in the past. This is an opportunity to elect an actual proven progressive. It may well come down to the seat that determines whether or not Kevin McCarthy becomes Speaker of the House.
This morning Annette told me that “After voting against the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and calling it 'socialism,' my opponent María Elvira’s hypocrisy is on full display as she asks the Biden Administration for infrastructure money she opposed in Congress. María Elvira is nothing more than a political opportunist who wants to take credit even after she voted against investing in our communities and creating good paying jobs. Miami deserves better than María Elvira, our community deserves a leader who will always put them first not just out of political convenience.”