Memo 09.26.2021 5 minutes

The MAGA Case for the Infrastructure Deal

President Joe Biden

Republicans have a golden opportunity to stop the Democrats' progressive reconciliation bill.

Elected Republicans think their voters are stupid;  that’s the best explanation for their continued posturing over action. They think we are obsessed with voting purity, when the truth is we want victory. At this point, to be honest, we’d be happy losing a little less completely just a little less often.

House Republicans are about to tank a bipartisan infrastructure bill because it isn’t perfect, or because it might give Biden a boost when he’s down. In a way I sympathize. I wish we did have an infrastructure bill that didn’t include billions for electric car charging stations for urban Tesla drivers, that didn’t earmark highway money to fix what Mayor Pete called “the racism physically built into some of our highways,” and that wasn’t so full of the word “equity” that you wonder if highway signs are going to start being posted with preferred pronouns at the bottom. But we are in the minority in both houses, and Dementia Joe is at the Resolute Desk. So what did you think we were going to get?

Republicans had the chance for something better when they were in power. They claimed to support the Trump agenda. They spoke like they were the workers’ party. But instead of passing a better infrastructure bill or building a wall or cracking down on Big Tech or doing something, anything, to even slightly reduce pre-born infant homicide, the top of their list was corporate tax cuts and repealing Obamacare—the former may have helped somewhat; the latter was an embarrassing train wreck.

So count me as a little bit skeptical when Republicans go on TV saying they support infrastructure, in principle, then refuse to vote for this particular bill. This isn’t a case of the perfect being the enemy of the good. It’s the imaginary being the enemy of the real.

But beyond the merits or demerits of the infrastructure bill—and there really are quite a few merits and many demerits—Republican refusal to vote for this deal massively increases the chance that the Democrats will much more freely pass the most poisonous aspects of their agenda with a simple majority vote through the reconciliation process.

The Democrats’ political strategy is straightforward. They are desperate to set America sail on their big woke dreamboat, but with bare majorities in the House and Senate, they need every vote they can get. Moderates in the party are wary of some of the more outrageous elements of the reconciliation package, such as the continued attempts to ram through amnesty for illegal immigrants, the Green New Deal, open subsidies for Fake News, and weakening the charitable deduction and replacing it with a tax break for union dues. It only takes a few in the House and one in the Senate to jump ship and tank the whole deal.

Progressive factions like AOC+3 may be insane enough to claim the world is ending in less than a generation, but unlike the Grand Old Party they are at least able to strategize more than one step ahead. The progs plan to vote “no” on the infrastructure deal, knowing that when they do, Pelosi and Schumer will duct tape it on to the rest of the reconciliation package.

This maneuver will allow all the rubber-spined Democrat “moderates” to vote for the most radical elements of the reconciliation package in Washington, while back at home they furrow their brow, express regret, and say that it was just the price they had to pay to get those big, beautiful roads and bridges that everyone wants.

It’s so ridiculously easy to stop this from happening that it almost feels insulting to play armchair quarterback here and tell members of Congress what to do. But maybe our esteemed representatives do need a little heart to heart. So let’s spell out this Political Strategy 101 slowly:

If you pass the infrastructure bill by itself, woke reconciliation is dead.

Without roads and bridges serving as the perfume to mask the rotten odor emanating from the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill, Senator Joe Manchin will certainly vote “no.” You may peel off senators Krysten Sinema or Jon Tester, too. You could almost certainly get three House Democrats to vote “no” as well. It only takes one of those options to kill reconciliation.

Biden may get his infrastructure win. But the country will be saved from billions of dollars being spent to erect a Climate Conservation Corps, from undermining our churches with the weakening of the charitable tax deduction, and from massive new subsidies for pre-k and community college that ensure our children will be even more thoroughly steeped with additional years of state-funded race and gender programming.

So our elected leaders have a choice to make. Do you want to shore up your Heritage Action key vote score and run next year saying that Biden may have gotten almost everything he wanted, but at least you personally didn’t vote for it? Or do you want to have some brains and balls, pass the mediocre infrastructure bill, and put a nail in the coffin of the rest of Biden’s progressive agenda?

Your voters are smarter than you think. We understand that life often only gives you the option to choose the lesser of two evils. So as you make your choice, remember we didn’t elect you to have a pure voting record. We elected you to save the country.

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

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