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Will infrastructure vote cost 13 Republicans traction on Capitol Hill?

How an issue that bridges both parties divides Republicans on Capitol Hill.
Published: Nov. 11, 2021 at 12:27 PM CST
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - After infrastructure reform spent years stalled in Washington gridlock, the country is set to invest more than ever before – in roads, bridges, rail, broadband, and electric vehicles.

The president is expected to sign an infrastructure bill into law in a matter of days, giving the green light to $1.2 trillion package with half a billion dollars in new spending over the next decade.

Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) and a dozen of his GOP peers in the House crossed the aisle, helping Democrats get the bill to the president’s desk.

“This bill was, for me, 10 years in the making, America’s infrastructure needed to be invested in,” he said, “And to have this opportunity, I didn’t want to lose it.”

The handful of House Republicans who helped drive the package across the finish line may lose traction within their party. Of the 13, more than half are from the Northeast, a few voted to impeach President Trump, and a couple aren’t running for re-election.

Unlike in the Senate, where 19 Republicans including Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) voted for the measure, House GOP leadership begged its members to let the infrastructure bill collapse when Democrats couldn’t produce enough votes on their own.

Rep. David McKinley (R-W. Va.) said his state couldn’t afford to let that happen and is not concerned by potential blowback from his peers.

“Bottom line: I voted for West Virginia,” he said of his ‘yes’ vote, “I voted for the fact that we are 50th in infrastructure.”

McKinley noted that state level Republicans, from the governor to county commissioners, told him the investment is desperately needed.

Back on Capitol Hill, the 13 Republicans said many in their party dramatically overstate how much of the bill IS not directly related to infrastructure, and that most of the climate provisions are practical.

Georgetown University Political Science Professor Mark Rom predicts this GOP split will only fleeting.

“I can imagine they can’t wait for a good red meat, Republican measure to come up,” he said, “So they can vote with their party, against the majority in the Congress, against Speaker Pelosi.”

That opportunity may be just around the corner, with a vote on the rest of the Biden agenda – calling for $1.7 trillion in new spending over a decade to tackle climate change and strengthen the country’s social safety net- potentially coming next week.

With the infrastructure debate in the rearview, the 13 Republicans bet moderate Democrats will back out of their deal to deliver on progressive demands, while the left count trust a handshake to hold the whole party together.

Historically, midterms are a rough ride for the party in power. It’s unclear whether the promise of infrastructure projects will be enough for Democrats to build a path to maintain control of Washington beyond the 2022 elections.

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