The nearly $1 trillion infrastructure bill moving through Congress might dent the partisan political divide that has prevented meaningful legislation in Washington.
The prospect of driving down a smooth new road, feeling safe on a high bridge or getting a job to build them could provide a path out of America’s political wilderness.
Proposed as the American Jobs Plan of 2021 by President Joe Biden, the infrastructure bill was negotiated by a group of senators evenly divided between the two political parties. It focuses mostly on the kinds of concrete assets governments should deliver to taxpayers, things like public water systems and a modern secure power grid.
On Tuesday, the bill passed the Senate 69-30, with 19 Republicans in favor. This break in what has often been a wall of opposition to anything from the Democratic Party prompted a stream of outrage from former President Donald Trump.
He attacked Republicans who had opposed him in the past. He called those supporting the bill names and warned “patriots will never forget.” “If this deal happens, lots of primaries will be coming your way,” he wrote.
In the past, these attacks produced outrage from Senate Republicans. This time, as The New York Times described it, “the response was crickets.”
Although most Republicans still oppose the bill, more than a handful seem unphased by Trump’s anger. Utah Sen. Mitt Romney is not up for re-election. Ohio Sen. Rob Portman is retiring. Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski is facing a Trump-backed primary challenger, but has made her sentiments clear. All voted for the bill this week.
More important, however, is the sense that infrastructure is one of those areas where governing takes precedence over the politics of grievance and victimhood that have marked too much recent Republican rhetoric. Even Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, has been vocal in his support for infrastructure legislation. He voted in favor, too. So did Idaho Sens. Jim Risch and Mike Crapo.
The U.S. is so far behind China in spending on its own physical assets that American business and policymakers are legitimately worried. The only new taxes in the bill involve crypto-currency, something as real to most people as voodoo.
There is something in this bill for every state and most districts. Infrastructure is what government does. Everyone puts money in together to pay real workers to build things that benefit all.
The senators who supported this bill will take credit. The ones who didn’t will take credit, too. That’s okay if this process marks the time when America can go back to politics without rage.
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