House passes infrastructure bill

Tonight (Friday), the House passed the $1.2 trillion infrastructure measure that the Senate passed months ago. It will now go to the White House and Joe Biden will sign it into law.

The vote was 228-206. According to this report, 13 Republicans voted in favor of the bill. Six leftist Democrats — Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib (the four original “squad” members), Cori Bush, and Jamaal Bowman — voted against it. Had the Republicans stood unanimously against the bill, six Dem defections would have defeated it.

However, it seemed almost inevitable that, with this much Republican support, the infrastructure bill would eventually be enacted. Leaving more than a trillion dollars on the table when there was a clear path to appropriating it struck me as an implausible scenario. I’m surprised it took so long to get it done.

The key to getting it done was, I assume, the election on Tuesday. That’s the Washington Post’s view:

[I]t was the Democratic Party’s unexpected struggles in two key elections Tuesday that provided the most resonant catalyst for action. A loss in Virginia’s gubernatorial race, and a tighter-than-expected victory in the fight for the governor’s mansion in New Jersey, left Democrats reeling and ready to forge ahead on their long-stalled priorities.

In the cold light of these results, many Democrats also must have figured out that the strategy of holding the infrastructure bill hostage to getting their way on a reconciliation package wasn’t going to work. Joe Manchin calls the shots on reconciliation, and he simply wasn’t going to be held “hostage.”

As for reconciliation, the radical House Dems received a fig leaf from the less radical members of their caucus. In exchange for their votes in favor of the infrastructure bill, they were promised a vote on reconciliation by November 15, providing the spending plan does not add to the deficit.

I may be missing something, but this promise seems almost meaningless. For one thing, it’s far from certain that, by November 15, an objective analysis by the CBO will show that the spending plan in question won’t add to the deficit.

More importantly, House passage of a reconciliation package would, itself, be meaningless unless Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are on board in the Senate. There’s no reason to believe that promises to that effect were made.

Nonetheless, given what happened on Tuesday, the conditional promise of a vote by November 15 was enough to win over most of the progressive caucus.

A discussion of the infrastructure bill itself is beyond the scope of this report. However, I think this part of the Post’s discussion is worth highlighting:

The bill includes more than $110 billion to replace and repair roads, bridges and highways, and $66 billion to boost rail, making it the most substantial such investment in the country’s passenger and commercial network since the creation of Amtrak about half a century ago. Lawmakers provided $55 billion to improve the nation’s water supply and replace lead pipes, $60 billion to modernize the power grid and billions [note: $65 billion, according to this report] in additional sums to expand speedy Internet access nationwide.

These are the components that legitimately constitute infrastructure. Add them up and, if my math is correct, you account for only about one-fourth of the total amount being appropriated, and only a little more than half of the new spending ($550 billion).

UPDATE: The 13 Republicans who voted in favor of the infrastructure bill are: Brian Fitzpatrick, Don Bacon, Don Young, Fred Upton, Adam Kinzinger, Jeff Van Drew, John Katko, Tom Reed, Andrew Garbarino, Nicole Malliotakis, Chris Smith, David McKinley, and Anthony Gonzalez.

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