Democrats are seeking to make roads and bridges a major campaign issue ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, highlighting local projects that stand to benefit from the bipartisan infrastructure bill and going after Republicans who voted against it.
“We cannot forget that our state’s senior senator, Marco Rubio, fought this effort. ... He voted against economic opportunity and relief,” Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.), who is running to unseat Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), said Wednesday at a small business roundtable in Florida.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which is awaiting President Joe Biden’s signature, will make the biggest investment in America’s infrastructure system in decades, creating jobs and bolstering the economy in the process. The money ― $1.2 trillion over eight years ― is aimed at overhauling the nation’s roads, bridges, railways, ports, utilities, internet access and more.
The measure is also a political boon for Democrats, especially after their losses in last week’s off-year elections in Virginia and New Jersey, where Republicans made big gains. It’s one they hope will cushion their incumbents against other economic headaches like inflation and supply chain issues.
Democratic lawmakers and candidates now get to look forward to issuing positive press releases and attending ribbon-cutting ceremonies for local infrastructure projects. Bringing home the bacon is as popular with members of Congress as ever, and lawmakers didn’t waste any time touting their work on the bill this week.
“Passage of the bipartisan infrastructure package is a true game-changer for New Hampshire,” Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), who is perhaps the most vulnerable Democratic Senate incumbent, said Tuesday at a press conference by the Amoskeag Bridge in Manchester. “The investments in this bill will pave the way to create new jobs, help our economy thrive, and outcompete China.”
Democrats might have trouble demonstrating the effects of the bill to voters right away, however. It takes time to build things like roads and bridges, and in some cases even longer for the federal government to award contracts. But the payoff could continue down the line.
In the Senate, 19 Republicans voted for the bill ― no small feat in today’s polarized climate. The group included Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who called the bill a “godsend” for his state.
The incumbent GOP senators targeted by Democrats ― Rubio in Florida, and Ron Johnson in Wisconsin ― opposed the measure. So did most Republican candidates in Ohio, Pennsylvania and North Carolina, the three open Senate seats next year, and the Republican candidates seeking to unseat Democrats in Georgia, Arizona and Nevada.
“Republicans will have to explain why they are standing against creating more good-paying jobs and investing in their states’ roads, bridges, clean drinking water and high-speed Internet,” Jazmin Vargas, spokesperson for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said in a statement. “And in 2022, voters will hold GOP Senate candidates accountable for prioritizing their own self-serving politics at the expense of working families.”
In the House, only 13 Republicans crossed their aisle and voted for the bill. Some of them are now facing death threats over their votes, as well as accusations of treason by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. The incendiary Georgia congresswoman tweeted the office phone numbers of her fellow colleagues who supported the legislation, urging her followers to vent their frustration.
What is remarkable about the split in the party over a popular issue like infrastructure is that Republicans continue to take their cues from former President Donald Trump, who proposed a large infrastructure overhaul when he ran for president but ultimately abandoned those efforts in office.
Trump over the weekend criticized the House and Senate Republicans who voted for the bill because it gave Biden a political win.
“Very sad that the RINOs in the House and Senate gave Biden and Democrats a victory on the ‘Non-Infrastructure’ Bill,” Trump said in a statement on Sunday. “All Republicans who voted for Democrat longevity should be ashamed of themselves, in particular Mitch McConnell, for granting a two month stay which allowed the Democrats time to work things out at our Country’s, and the Republican Party’s, expense!”