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Feehery: 8 reasons why Biden should take the bipartisan infrastructure deal

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The Hill
The Hill
 2021-06-22
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Joe Biden should go bipartisan on infrastructure.

Far be it for me to give the president any political advice, and I doubt it he would take it, but here are the eight reasons that Mr. Biden should accept the Republican offer to rebuild roads, bridges, buildings, etc. and then move on to the rest of his agenda.

First, a bipartisan package will help moderate Democrats. And moderate Democrats are the only ones who are truly in danger of losing next election. A lot of pundits (including me) firmly believe that the House will flip next time around. Passing a partisan package will make that theory a reality, but if Democrats go bipartisan, many of the most vulnerable will have fighting chance.

Second, raising taxes right now would be politically dangerous and economically stupid. I know many progressives want to take this chance to implement a great reset and pass a bunch of tax increases that will hit the wealthy. Ironically, most of the folks who will be hit the hardest with the tax increases will be Democrats, but some small businesses will feel the pinch too. The last thing that restaurants, gyms, small manufacturers and independent retailers can afford right now, just as they are turning the corner after the stupid COVID-19 lockdowns, is higher taxes. It will hurt the recovery and stall job creation.

Third, a spending package that approaches a trillion dollars will split the Republicans. Many in the GOP like to spend money, especially on infrastructure, but many more don’t think we can afford spending a trillion more dollars and certainly don’t want to give the president any political victory.

Fourth, bipartisan infrastructure legislation might be his only major accomplishment. He won’t get major immigration reform done. He won’t overhaul health care. It is unlikely he will get any major voting rights legislation done. His COVID-19 package was basically a continuation of Trump policies, with more money attached. He won’t have the courage to totally overhaul our broken education system. So, it’s infrastructure or bust. And to make it stick, it needs to be bipartisan.

Fifth, reconciliation is not a good way to make infrastructure policy. It’s a budget device, used primarily by the Senate to deal with budget deficits. If the Democrats use the reconciliation process to pass infrastructure, many of the policy changes wanted by progressives will be left on the cutting room floor by the Senate parliamentarian.

Sixth, the president campaigned as a moderate, not as a Bernie Sanders progressive. As he liked to say last year, he beat Bernie so he is not going to govern like him. Passing a bipartisan infrastructure package would be more consistent with how he campaigned. Thus far, with all of his executive orders and his public pronouncements, he has governed as the most left-wing president in history. He would make former Vice President Henry Wallace proud. But that’s not what he promised the American people. And a sharply divided nation doesn’t want to veer sharply to the left.

Seventh, the country could use increased investment into infrastructure. From crumbling bridges to deteriorating aquifers, from public buildings that need to be refurbished in the COVID-19 era to roads that need to be expanded (like I-95 south of Washington, D.C.), a trillion dollars dedicated to rebuilding America would be politically popular with most Americans, in a way that wouldn’t be overly partisan and could help the country move on from the divisiveness of the last decade.

And finally, investing in infrastructure would create hundreds of thousands of jobs. Where we find those workers is another question (probably in Mexico) but nonetheless, a bipartisan package of infrastructure spending would put America back to work in every state in the nation. Biden likes to talk about building back better, but he will truly build back better if he does it bipartisan.

Feehery is a partner at EFB Advocacy and blogs at www.thefeeherytheory.com. He served as spokesman to former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), as communications director to former Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) when he was majority whip and as a speechwriter to former House Minority Leader Bob Michel (R-Ill.).

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