Last week, GOP Minority Leader Mitch McConnell kicked off the infrastructure debate by promising lockstep opposition to President Joe Biden's $2 trillion proposal. This week, Senate Republicans are suggesting that maybe, just maybe, they could support a plan that's roughly a third of the price, or some $615 billion, but only if the White House finds a way to pay for it without raising the corporate tax rate—because GOP donors, of course.
“There’s an easy win here,” Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri said on Fox News Sunday.
Riiiiiiight. So easy, in fact, that Republicans took a pass on even trying for a solid four years under Trump. Biden's response? Sorry, fellas, fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.
Biden already redefined so-called bipartisanship while crafting his COVID-19 rescue plan, and Republican lawmakers are giving the president zero reason to reevaluate. In fact, as my colleague Joan McCarter points out, Republicans are simply re-running their last disastrous attempt to mount an opposition to Biden's wildly popular coronavirus relief package.
When asked at a recent press conference about McConnell's suggestion that the White House had rejected bipartisanship, Biden responded that perhaps McConnell should check in with his own base. "What I know I have now is that I have electoral support from Republican voters. Republican voters agree with what I’m doing," Biden said. As for McConnell, Biden added, "He ought to a look at his party,” noting that over 50% of GOP voters supported his COVID-19 relief plan.
This week, Biden is already laughing off the GOP's knee-jerk criticism of his infrastructure package. Asked on Monday if he worried that raising the corporate rate would send jobs overseas, Biden told White House reporters, "Not at all," adding, "There's no evidence of that," according to the White House pool report.
"You're talking about companies in the Fortune 500 that haven't paid a single penny in tax for 3 years," Biden offered, adding his signature catch-all comeback to GOP ridiculousness. "Come on, man."
Biden also said he wasn't going to waste any time bargaining with Republicans over what counted as infrastructure in their view and what didn't. "I'm going to push as hard as I can, to compete with the rest of the world," he said. "Everybody else in the rest of the world is investing billions and billions of dollars in infrastructure, and we're going to do it here."
Biden has absolutely no reason to give Republican lawmakers a second thought in crafting his approach to revolutionizing the nation’s outdated infrastructure. Not only are Biden's approvals on his handling of the coronavirus—including his relief bill—soaring in multiple polls, Republicans have effectively let him off the hook. On the one hand, they're already pledging unified opposition, and on the other, they're making outrageous demands in exchange for the implausibility that one or two GOP stragglers might hop on board.
Besides that, Biden is entirely right about McConnell and his GOP colleagues being astoundingly out of touch with their own base voters. Plus, early polling already supports Biden's approach of paying for the plan by raising taxes on the rich/corporate-y along with many of the specific provisions being broadly popular.
Meanwhile, after eight years of stonewalling President Obama's agenda and two Trump-era years of jamming through tax cuts and failed attempts to strip Americans of their health care, Republicans are suddenly lamenting the current state of partisan relations.
"You lose the muscle memory of working together if you’re constantly jamming through partisan measures," said Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, suggesting that Democrats are the real jammers. Also, sometimes you lose the muscle memory of living in a reality-based world if you're constantly surrounded by a partisan echo chamber that tunes out even your own voters.
Portman added, "It doesn’t have to be this way."
Maybe not, but that's not on Democrats or President Biden. Biden is delivering on the platform on which he ran, and he's receiving plenty of bipartisan support from American voters as he does it. One might think it would be Republicans who paused to reconsider for a moment, but they’ve apparently lost that muscle memory.