As President Joe Biden pushes for his American Jobs Plan, which repairs and upgrades existing U.S. infrastructure while expanding into what the country will need for the future, Republicans are trying to figure out exactly what they are for. Some Republicans simply aren’t willing to say anything but what they’re against. Others could maybe get on board with a plan that does a fraction of what’s needed to update 20th-century infrastructure—but forget about the needs of the century we’re already 20% of the way through.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito said Wednesday that she thought Republicans would go for $600 billion to $800 billion in infrastructure spending. That’s far smaller than the $2.3 trillion Biden is proposing, but it’s a “sweet spot,” Capito said—before quickly backtracking after her fellow Republicans indicated that it was too much for them. One-third of what Biden wants “seems a little high,” Sen. Mitt Romney said.
An estimated $41.8 billion is needed to repair structurally deficient bridges alone—never mind getting ahead of the bridges that will become structurally deficient in the coming years. Or talking about roads, rail, broadband, schools, veterans’ hospitals, ports, airports, replacing lead pipes for drinking water, caring for our elders while boosting some of the fastest-growing occupations, and supporting medical manufacturing.
As absurd a low-ball as Capito’s $600 to $800 billion was, though, at least she said something that she would be willing to talk about. More Republicans are just saying “No! Smaller!” and counting on voters to recoil from a corporate tax increase.
Voters, however, support raising corporate taxes to pay for infrastructure—in one poll, telling people that infrastructure would be paid for by a corporate tax hike actually increases support for the plan. Another new poll, from Navigator Research, finds narrow majority support for the infrastructure plan that grows to 70% support when people learn what’s in it, with large majorities of independent voters supporting many of the specific components of the American Jobs Plan, including the senior care proposal that congressional Republicans are so intent on disqualifying as “not really infrastructure.”
Even a majority of Republicans polled support that proposal, along with eliminating lead pipes, investing to protect against future pandemics, investing in rail systems, upgrading and building new schools and child care facilities, and more. Things like clean energy and investing in communities of color don’t get Republican majorities, but they do get independent majorities and strong Democratic support. If these proposals would get support from just half the proportion of Republican lawmakers as Republican voters, they would be seen as strongly bipartisan. But instead, congressional Republicans ignore the polling and yell about how Biden is steamrolling them because his willingness to compromise doesn’t extend to being steamrolled himself. These people are not operating in good faith. Doing so would be in violation of their deepest principles and would probably get them kicked out of their party. And they should be dealt with—and reported on—accordingly.