The GOP infrastructure bet – WSJ

Bipartism for the good of the country is sometimes necessary in a democracy. But bipartisanship for itself, or to aid progressives in their attempt to remake America, is destructive. Senate Republicans heading for an infrastructure compromise must figure out what kind of deal they agree to.

A group of 10 senators, five Democrats and five Republicans, announced last week that they had agreed on the “framework” for such a deal. Details are scarce, but leaks suggest the proposal would cost $ 1.2 trillion over eight years and include $ 579 billion in new spending. The deal focuses on basic infrastructure such as roads, bridges and broadband, although it also includes some of President Biden’s green energy demands.

Senators said in a statement that the deal would be “fully paid for and will not include tax increases.” They are still haggling over “pay-for” – with ideas that include indexing the gasoline tax to inflation, imposing user fees for electric vehicles, or creating a new bank. federal infrastructure.

The country could use some infrastructure investments, and a targeted bill that reallocates unspent Covid funds is the best option. The problem is what comes next. Republicans are worried about the size of the package. But they might be convinced to follow if they knew this compromise was the end of Democratic spending plans. The White House would get its big infrastructure victory and the Republicans would prevent more damage to the left.

But Mr Biden has proposed billions of dollars in additional spending, and Progressives are already pledging to cram anything that doesn’t cut infrastructure into a separate bill that could pass with just 50 votes in the Senate ( plus the vice-president’s tiebreaker). Politico reports that Senate Budget Chairman Bernie Sanders is not “sweating” bipartisan talks because he is already rallying support for his follow-up boon.

If an infrastructure compromise is primarily used to grease the pads of this phase two eruption, it will do far more harm than good. Two of the Democratic negotiators, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, continue to insist on bipartisan infrastructure talks, but have not said what they will do in phase two.

The danger is that an agreement on infrastructure could facilitate the passage of phase two. Democratic leaders face the prospect of selling a reconciliation bill that encompasses infrastructure, climate subsidies and Mr Biden’s “America’s Family Plan” – and could easily be priced north of $ 4 trillion. dollars. Cutting out about a trillion dollars with an initial compromise on infrastructure would lessen that sticker shock and arguably make it easier for Democrats to get into swing states.

This second bill would be the killer. Infrastructure spending can be waste or pork of special interest, but most will be a one-time event. Mr Biden’s “family plan” is an expansion of cradle-to-grave rights that would rewrite the social contract: universal preschool, free community college, and new federal child care and paid family leave programs. No work needed. The fees would start small, but grow into giant spending wedges in the future. The story of rights is that they are impossible to reform, let alone kill.

GOP senators must decide whether an infrastructure deal is worth the huge risk that it paves the way for a phase two bill that increases the government by 4% as a percentage of GDP on a permanent basis. They also risk putting their footprints on a green energy subsidy program that could become as politically embarrassing as Barack Obama’s 2009 stimulus package and its Solyndra scandals. The examples of crony socialism will be exquisite.

Republicans may not have to make that fateful choice, as progressives rally to scramble the deal. Democrats would need every member of their Senate caucus to join 10 Republicans to overcome the 60-vote filibuster rule, but half a dozen Senate Liberals this week have ridiculed the bipartisan infrastructure framework as being inadequate.

Perhaps that should be the GOP’s warning that Democrats intend to see their infrastructure compromised and raise them a free reconciliation expense for all for ages.

Potomac Watch: As Democrats redefine infrastructure to include climate change, green energy, and protections for unionized workers, Republicans are pushing for a bipartisan bill that is not “socialism camouflaged in infrastructure.” Images: Getty Images Composite: Mark Kelly

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