Selective support for infrastructure

The White House and Senate Democrats put together a pretty strong jobs bill last week, which polls showed the vast majority of Americans strongly supported. It was an infrastructure-investment bill — $50 billion in direct spending on transportation projects, $10 billion to get the National Infrastructure Bank up and running — that estimates suggest would have created hundreds of thousands of jobs, without adding so much as a penny to the deficit.

But Republicans killed it, because it was paid for with a 0.7% surtax on millionaires and billionaires, representing just 0.2% of the population. The jobs crisis and polls show broad, bipartisan support for the proposal were deemed irrelevant. Even some Republican senators who’d co-sponsored the Infrastructure Bank idea refused to let the Senate vote up or down.

Ed Luce noted today that the GOP’s hard-line approach to infrastructure investments is new.

Until now, America has never faced an ideological divide on infrastructure: both parties accepted the need to upgrade roads, dams, bridges, energy and water systems … We need go back only to 2005 when a Republican-controlled Capitol Hill pushed through the infamous $280bn Highways Act, which was the largest transport bill in US history. Dubbed the “Bridge to Nowhere” because it was stuffed with boondoggles, including the notorious $223m Alaskan bridge to an island of 50 people already served by ferry, the bill won near-unanimous support. A few years later, those seem like the good old days.

One Republican senator said at the time that public spending on infrastructure was absolutely necessary: “We have to have this money for safety, for economic development, for continued growth and the health of our economy.”

That was for a $280 billion infrastructure bill. Democrats sought $60 billion for infrastructure last week, and Republicans filibustered to even prevent a discussion of the legislation. Apparently, safety, economic development, and the health of our economy aren’t as important now as they were six years ago.

Bill Scher took a clever next step and noticed the senators who were comfortable with the “Bridge to Nowhere” vote in 2005, but who killed the jobs bill last week.

Many senators from 2005 are no longer in Congress, as some voters were not impressed with their results in 2006 and 2008.

Yet, there are 25 senators who are still around — including current Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — who decided in 2005 that the “Bridge to Nowhere” was good enough for your taxpayer dollars, but President Obama’s infrastructure bill was not.

Bill published a list, though it may be slightly worse, since some House members — Missouri’s Roy Blunt, for example — voted for the 2005 bill as House members, and have since been promoted to the Senate.

Regardless, as Bill accurately concluded, these lawmakers are “champions of hypocrisy” who “support infrastructure only when it might help them get re-elected.”