What was wrong with that smiling group of senators who gathered with President Biden to announce their $ 1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill (including $ 579 billion in new spending) on Thursday afternoon? Two essential things. The five other GOP Senators had to avoid a Republican filibuster to begin. There are reportedly six other Republicans in the group who negotiated, but weren’t they enthusiastic enough to essentially stand up for a photo op? Too busy?
The other missing element was a touch of color. The 10 senators who announced the deal, one at a time, represented a shade of whiter. There’s only one black Republican senator, of course, and with the election coming up, it’s possible South Carolina’s Tim Scott might not risk it, especially while negotiating police reform with the Democrats. Texas Senator Rafael “Cancún” Cruz … it doesn’t matter.
Was it absolutely impossible on the Democratic side to get even one of the eight color senators – not Cory Booker, Catherine Cortez-Masto, Alex Padilla, Raphael Warnock, Maizie Hirono, Tammy Duckworth, Bob Menendez or Ben-Ray Lujan -? to join? Yes, most of them are liberals, although Menendez, Duckworth, and Cortez-Mastro are some of the most cooperative with the GOP, according to GovTrack. (Senator Kyrsten Sinema, a co-chair of the bipartisan effort, of course, and an enemy of a $ 15 minimum wage and filibuster reform, was ranked the most conservative.) Democrats should have more than eight colored senators under their 50, but that’s for another time.
First, the positives: Republicans resisted the notion that things like broadband access, replacing water and sewer systems, and even expanding public transport funding were worthwhile “infrastructure” expenditures; this bipartisan agreement funds all three. In a brief press conference later, Biden boasted of raising $ 115 billion for local public transport and rail passenger transportation, and $ 15 billion for electric buses and vehicle charging stations. There is another $ 65 billion for “broadband infrastructure” and $ 55 billion for “water infrastructure”. Early versions of the compromise included funding from a public-private “infrastructure bank” that many progressives would fear a public credit; no word yet on whether this package does the same.
The best thing that happened all day was the promise from House Representative Nancy Pelosi that the House of Representatives will not adopt the bipartisan package until the Senate adopts both this and the list of broader progressive priorities called “human Infrastructure ”- more the financing of climate change, education and the“ care infrastructure ”(childcare, pre-kindergarten, care for the elderly) – that made Biden’s original infrastructure proposal of 2 trillion US dollars so exciting. Progressives, including Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, have called for the proposals to run in parallel so that the bipartisan compromise gets their votes.
And after leaving the press conference, Biden made his own statement: “If this is the only thing I can think of, I won’t sign it. … I’m not just signing the bipartisan law and forgetting the rest. ”This is good news.
There is still no guarantee that the draft compromise will get 10 GOP votes. During Biden’s meeting with the press, he made particular reference to “what we have just settled” and added “at least for the moment”. The president told reporters, “I have no guarantee” that the bill will get the Republican votes it needs. Worryingly, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, who said his top priority was blocking Biden’s agenda, has remained silent on the deal. It’s hard to imagine him giving 10 Republicans permission to endorse the bill, especially when it runs alongside a reconciliation package. Virginia Democratic Senator Mark Warner told MSNBC he would be “shocked if we don’t vote for the compromise with 20 or more Republicans”. I’ll have what he’s got; we will see.
The compromise also gives Sinema and Joe Manchin, two irreconcilable enemies of filibuster reform, an excuse to insist that bipartisanism is not dead – in fact, both of them said just that in brief statements on Thursday. (Neither of them said they would back another infrastructure deal through reconciliation.) What does this mean for the effort to reform voting rights, which clearly requires filibuster reform? It was already life sustaining, and that probably won’t help. However, this compromise could still fail. I’m not rooted for that as long as it comes with firm plans for a major reconciliation package. But I wouldn’t consider more than five GOP votes to be solid.