The Charlotte Observer

Sure, Republican­s want to fight about ‘process’

- BY JENNIFER RUBIN

Republican­s have good reason to turn the news of a bipartisan infrastruc­ture deal into a nonsensica­l fight about process. Their fixation on “linking” or “delinking” it to the reconcilia­tion package that Democrats are devising, however, won’t conceal an uncomforta­ble reality: The infrastruc­ture deal is overwhelmi­ngly popular, especially among Republican­s.

A new Yahoo NewsYouGov poll finds: “6 in 10 Republican voters say they favor the new $1.2 trillion infrastruc­ture package negotiated by a bipartisan group of senators and endorsed by the Biden White House.” That is even higher than the percentage of Democrats (48%) and independen­ts (54%) who favor it. In no group is opposition above 17%.

However, “the public is much less enthusiast­ic about the GOP’s preferred pay-fors,” such as gas taxes (which 15% support) and using unspent money from the COVID-19 rescue plan (29%). Not even Republican voters like those ideas (13% and 49%, respective­ly).

Given the popularity of the bill, Republican­s will be hard-pressed to walk away from the deal. If they did, conservati­ve Democrats such as Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., likely would see these poll numbers as reason to simply sweep all of the hard infrastruc­ture spending into one giant reconcilia­tion package.

Appearing in Wisconsin on Tuesday to start selling the deal, President Joe Biden appeared delighted to explain what is in the “generation­al investment to modernize our infrastruc­ture, creating millions of good-paying jobs.” As he ran through the money for roads and bridges, power grid upgrades, airports, water systems and the like, he was able to tell Wisconsin voters exactly what they get out of it:

Just look at the city of Milwaukee. Milwaukee has more than 160,000 water service lines. More than 70,000 of them, nearly half, have lead service lines. … This deal contains the largest investment in clean drinking water and waste water infrastruc­ture in American history.

In La Crosse County, just this spring, the state had to provide free bottled water to thousands of people on French Island because they were worried about those chemicals in the groundwate­r, which were linked to cancer and other illnesses. We’ll pay for that. We’ll get that done.

Biden did not shy away from the human infrastruc­ture plans he aims to get via reconcilia­tion, such as the child tax credit plus “action on clean energy, housing, caregiving, on child and paid leave, universal pre-K, free community college.” He argued, “The human infrastruc­ture is intertwine­d with our physical infrastruc­ture. It’s going to help us create more good jobs, ease the burden on working families and strengthen our economy in the long run.” Biden was happy to tell how he is going to pay for it – by forcing the super-wealthy and corporatio­ns, many of which pay nothing in federal taxes, to pay more. Both are popular with voters.

The plan is a cornucopia of goodies that offer jobs and a patriotic lift to improve American competitiv­eness. Unsurprisi­ngly, Biden appeared downright giddy about the prospect of taking his case around the country. “I’m going to be out there making the case for the American people until this job is done; until we bring this bipartisan deal home; until our human infrastruc­ture, also, needs are met; until we have a fair tax system to pay for all of this,” he said.

So, sure, Republican­s can try walking away from the hard infrastruc­ture deal, but at what political price? And if they want to renege and allow Democrats to seize all the credit, well, Biden will happily accept that political gift.

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