Infrastructure funding has traditionally been a largely bipartisan issue on Capitol Hill, but President Joe Biden’s Comprehensive Infrastructure Bill was passed mainly along the party lines Friday night.
Only 19 members of Congress broke with their parties on the bill, which passed 228 to 206, with Democrats largely supporting the legislation and Republicans largely against.
So who were these 19 lawmakers – 13 Republicans and 6 Democrats – who opposed their parties? They can be broadly divided into three camps: Republicans who consulted with negotiators about the bill; Republicans who hold on to the party’s traditional view that funding infrastructure is more important than fighting another party’s president; and members of the liberal group known as the Squad.
Six Democrats who are part of the progressive group known as “The Squad” – Jamaal Bowman from New York, Cori Bush from Missouri, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York, Ilhan Omar from Minnesota, Ayanna S. Pressley from Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan – voted against Biden’s plan to spend $ 550 billion in new funds over 10 years to secure roads, bridges, and highways, improve Internet access, and modernize the country’s power grid.
The squad has grown from four to six members since 2019 when Ocasio-Cortez, the most prominent progressive on Capitol Hill, entered Congress. Its members were among the leading proponents of the strategy of using the infrastructure bill as leverage to pass Biden’s broader agenda: a $ 1.85 trillion social safety net and a climate change bill.
Ocasio-Cortez has argued that the provisions in Biden’s bill to combat climate change are needed to offset the environmental impact of increased funding for construction projects.
The passage of the Infrastructure Act without the larger domestic policy package “worsens our emissions and climate crisis,” she wrote on Twitter in October. “That keeps us in the emission red.”
Their position was shared by the nearly 100-strong Congressional Progressive Caucus until centrist Democrats who opposed the broader bill promised Friday night that they would vote for it by the week of November 15 at the latest, unless the Congressional Budget Office sets his position The cost is “inconsistent” with the $ 1.85 trillion estimate submitted by Biden’s staff.
While most progressives then agreed to vote for the bill, members of the squad found the centrists’ assurances not good enough and decided to maintain their position of passing both bills at the same time. Bush said the passing of the Infrastructure Bill “jeopardizes our influence on the broader bill” – which includes monthly payments to families with children, universal pre-kindergarten, health care grants, and a four-week paid family and sick leave program – and the skills of progressives endangers “improving the livelihood of our healthcare workers, our children, our caregivers, our senior citizens and the future of our environment”.
Still, Pressley voted against the Infrastructure Bill after it had enough votes to pass it.
This position enraged some moderate Democrats. One of them, Rep. Tom Suozzi of New York, equated the opposition of left-wing New Yorkers like Ocasio-Cortez and Bowman with right-wing Republicans like Lee Zeldin of New York for voting against a bill that would bring in billions of dollars the state for subway, sewer and broadband.
“It doesn’t make sense,” Suozzi, who is considering running for governor, told reporters on Saturday at a New York political conclave in San Juan, Puerto Rico. “These are two sides of the same coin: people who are out there instead of trying to do things to help people and make people’s lives better. That’s what people are fed up with. “
Republican “problem solvers”
Eight Republicans who voted for the Infrastructure Bill – Don Bacon from Nebraska, Brian Fitzpatrick from Pennsylvania, Andrew Garbarino from New York, Anthony Gonzalez from Ohio, John Katko from New York, Tom Reed from New York, Christopher H. Smith from New Jersey and Fred Upton of Michigan – were part of a bipartisan group of lawmakers who helped negotiate the Infrastructure Bill this summer and consulted with centrists in the Senate.
The group known as Problem Solvers Caucus, which also included Republican co-chair Fitzpatrick, once hoped to get up to 29 votes in the Republican House of Representatives for the bill, but saw members fall off when Rep. Kevin McCarthy , the House Minority Leader, and other top Republicans opposed this as they stepped up their campaign against Biden’s agenda.
Given the improvements in highways, bridges, dams, public transportation, rails, ports, airports, water quality and broadband in the districts, eight members of the group voted in favor of the plan.
Garbarino, who represents part of Long Island, cited the benefits to New York – including $ 24.9 billion for freeways, bridges, and transit; $ 15 billion to replace lead pipes for drinking water; and $ 470 million for New York’s Kennedy, La Guardia, MacArthur and Republic airports – one of his reasons for accepting the bill.
The vote was “about roads, bridges and clean water,” he said. “It was about real people and the concrete steps Congress could take to improve their lives by rebuilding and revitalizing our nation’s crumbling infrastructure.”
The Republicans who voted for the law faced backlash from some far-right members of their party. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., Posted her office phone numbers on Twitter, accusing her of “giving her voting cards to Nancy Pelosi to pass Joe Biden’s Communist takeover of America”.
Republican traditionalists on infrastructure
A final group of five House Republicans joined the Problem Solvers Caucus to stand up against their party in support of the law. This group – Adam Kinzinger from Illinois, Don Young from Alaska, Nicole Malliotakis from New York, David B. McKinley from West Virginia, and Jeff Van Drew from New Jersey – can be broadly defined as representing the party’s traditionalist view of funding Represents infrastructures.
Young, 88, is the senior Republican Party member and has represented Alaska for 25 terms. He approved the bill in September on the grounds that the party had always supported funding for roads and bridges, and stressed that votes on infrastructure in the past have been “damn close” unanimously.
“We need an infrastructure in this country now,” said Young. “This is the last opportunity we have to make sure these potholes are filled, these airports are functioning properly, bridges are safe and our economy can continue to grow.”
Others, much newer in Congress, said they shared Young’s view on the matter.
Malliotakis, who represents Staten Island in her first term, released a statement explaining her voice, which listed various projects that funding could support in her community, including “Completing the lane for high-traffic vehicles.” the Staten Island Expressway ”, fortifying coastal districts and upgrading“ our sewer systems to deal with the next super storm Sandy or Hurricane Ida ”.
“Simply put, it’s that kind of investment that not only saves city residents time and money, but also their property and their lives,” she said.