House GOP to whip votes against ‘bipartisan’ infrastructure bill in win for conservative wing
H ouse Republican leadership announced they would whip votes against the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill negotiated by a bipartisan group of senators when it comes for a vote on the House floor.
The move is a win for members in the hard-line conservative wings of the conference, such as the Freedom Caucus and Republican Study Committee, who have pressured House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy for weeks to corral House Republicans against the bill. It could also be a key decision for him as he tries to shore up support from the conservative wing to become House speaker should Republicans take back the House after 2022.
“It’s now clear that the tax and spend reconciliation bill and the Senate infrastructure bill are inextricably linked. Therefore, we will be whipping against both measures in an effort to stop Democrats from enacting $5 trillion in socialist spending,” said House Minority Whip Steve Scalise’s office in a statement on Wednesday.
The move could also give the far-left wing of the Democratic Party more negotiating power as they spar with centrist Democrats over the content and timing of passing the infrastructure bill. Democrats hope to pass the legislation alongside their go-it-alone budget reconciliation bill of up to $3.5 trillion, a sweeping set of Democratic priorities that Democrats can pass without the 10 Republican votes in the Senate needed to avoid a filibuster.
Democrats can only afford to lose three votes before they would need Republican support to pass the infrastructure bill, and dozens of members in the Congressional Progressive Caucus have pledged to vote against it if the reconciliation bill is not ready.
Almost immediately after the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed the Senate last month with support from 19 Democrats, the Republican Study Committee distributed talking points against the infrastructure bill, calling it a “Trojan horse for the radical Pelosi/Biden agenda.”
The House Freedom Caucus last month called on Republican leadership to whip votes against the infrastructure legislation, as well as Democrats’ go-it-alone budget reconciliation bill. Texas Rep. Chip Roy said it is “absolutely absurd” that any Republicans voted for it, and Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene said that “any Republican that participates in it should be shamed and should never be voted for again.”
Indiana Rep. Jim Banks, chairman of the Republican Study Committee, escalated his opposition on Tuesday, telling reporters he believes leadership should whip votes against the bill. He referenced a quote from Democratic National Committee chairman Jaime Harrison, who said that if both the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the reconciliation bill pass in Congress, the message to voters will be that “Democrats deliver.”
"I don't know how Republicans can go along with advancing the Biden-Democrat agenda,” Banks said.
Scalise announced the decision to members of the Republican Study Committee, of which he is a former chairman, earlier on Wednesday. Members responded to the news with cheers.
Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs, chairman of the Freedom Caucus, said Wednesday they are “very happy” about the decision and offered to help whip votes against it.
But not all Republican members are on board with the effort to oppose the bill.
New York Rep. Tom Reed, a Republican former co-chairman of the bipartisan Problem Solver’s Caucus retiring at the end of his current term, will reportedly buck leadership and still vote in favor of the infrastructure bill.
There is a concern centrist Republicans in competitive districts could face a hit if they vote against the bill or that they could miss an opportunity to show they voted for major infrastructure legislation.
It also creates a divide among congressional Republicans, as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell voted in favor of the bipartisan bill.
McCarthy had previously said Republicans should vote against the infrastructure bill if it is tied to the budget reconciliation plan, saying he has “great frustration with this bill." But before Wednesday, he had declined to go as far as to organize his caucus against it.
“Now that the multi-trillion-dollar reconciliation bill will not be ready for the floor in time for the self-imposed deadline of September 27th due to disarray within her caucus, Democrats are moving forward with the Senate infrastructure bill which has become the gateway to passage of the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill,” a memo from Scalise’s whip office to members said Wednesday. “There is no question that Republicans vehemently oppose the reckless policies included in the reconciliation bill and Speaker Pelosi’s legislative strategy solidifies that a vote for the infrastructure bill paves the way for passage of reconciliation — Republicans should not aid in this destructive process.”
Washington Examiner Videos