Hard Infrastructure Should Be an Easy Vote

The bipartisan infrastructure bill that Speaker Pelosi has vowed to bring to a vote within the next 10 days is full of the sort of hard infrastructure spending the nation needs.

It includes $110 billion for roads and bridges, $66 billion for passenger and freight rail, $65 billion for broadband, $65 billion for strengthening the electric grid, $54 billion for water infrastructure, and $46 billion for resiliency — and would play a vital role in recovery from hurricanes, storms, and wildfires.

That’s why it has the enthusiastic backing of legislators of both parties, in both chambers.

However, it could still fail, not because of its contents but because of Pelosi’s insistence on linking it to a multi-trillion-dollar social spending and climate bill.

Fox News reports that House Problem Solvers Caucus member Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-SD) “is warning the bipartisan infrastructure bill may lose GOP votes because it’s too intertwined with the reconciliation bill.” Johnson said, “I think Nancy Pelosi did this whole process a real disservice by linking them together so strongly and she continues to do that. And that makes it very difficult to bring Republicans to the party.”

Elected officials of both parties agree on the need for infrastructure. But that does not mean they want to go along on a budget-busting bill rammed through without debate. As Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) has said, any bill that would increase the federal debt to such a degree needs to be considered very carefully.

Today’s official federal debt is more than twice what it was a decade ago, and five times what it was in 2000. But that official number of $28.4 trillion only tells part of the story. The commitments the federal government has made for future Medicare and Social Security benefits, as well as pensions and healthcare for retired federal employees, are off budget — not included in budgetary accounting. The real debt is more than $134,000,000,000,000.

Andrew Tisch writes on the Forbes website, “Our current accumulated deficit would create a stack of ‘Benjamins’ ($100 bills) almost 20,000 miles high, or pretty close to the circumference of the earth at the Equator. Another $3.5 trillion would put it over the imaginary 24,901-mile circumference line. It’s time to bring things back to reality, to come up with a revenue and spending plan that does not guarantee that our own children and grandchildren will have to pay for our fiscal blunders.”

Pelosi has said the House will vote on the popular hard infrastructure bill by September 27. As a standalone measure, it should be an easy vote for serious legislators on both sides of the aisle. Only her insistence on binding it to reconciliation is standing in the way.

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