Thomas Gallatin / May 14, 2021

Let’s Make an Infrastructure Deal?

Republican leaders are confident after an Oval Office meeting with Joe Biden.

Democrats and Republicans have been at loggerheads over Joe Biden’s desired $2.3 trillion “infrastructure” bill. The cause of the stalemate can be boiled down to two main issues — the definition of what actually constitutes infrastructure, and the eye-popping price tag. Put another way, Republicans are on board with fixing infrastructure, but Democrats want to blow money on completely unrelated leftist giveaways.

In an effort to break the logjam, Biden invited leaders from both houses of Congress to the Oval Office on Wednesday. “We’re going to talk a lot about infrastructure today,” he said prior to the meeting, “and see if there’s any way we can reach a compromise that gets the people’s work done and is within the bounds of everyone agreeing.”

Roughly $1.7 trillion separates the two sides, so what could go wrong?

Somewhat surprisingly, Republican leaders Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy struck an optimistic tone after the meeting. McConnell said, “We had a very cordial meeting for about an hour and a half and discussed an issue upon which there is a great chance we could get a bipartisan outcome. And that’s infrastructure. I did make clear to the president that we’re not willing to go back and raise taxes, that is, undo the 2017 comprehensive tax reform bill, which brought us the best economy in a long time as of February of 2020. I think they know that. That was a — seemed to me to be accepted.”

Of course, half of politics is about setting and directing the narrative.

The Republican counteroffer for an infrastructure plan is itself no small potatoes, carrying a price tag of nearly $600 billion. However, it is much more in line with funding actual infrastructure projects, whereas McConnell has repeatedly criticized Democrats for their “exotic definitions” of infrastructure.

“We may have some difference about how you define infrastructure,” McConnell deadpanned. “I mean, we think traditional infrastructure — roads, bridges, ports, water lines, broadband — are things we can agree on. To the extent that they start getting off in rather exotic definitions of what amounts to infrastructure, we could have a problem.”

With the recent cyberattack on Colonial Pipeline causing gas shortages and price hikes, Republicans are in a much stronger position as Americans are suddenly focused on actual infrastructure issues. Furthermore, recent polling indicates that a majority of Americans favor a focused and less costly infrastructure bill rather than another bloated catch-all tagged as “infrastructure.”

In short, McConnell and McCarthy may have reason for optimism, and Biden and company may soon start feeling public pressure.

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