When the Senate votes later this week on Obama’s plan for new infrastructure spending to create jobs, Democratic aides expect that not a single Republican Senator will vote for it — because it’s paid for by a 0.7 percent surtax on income over $1,000,000 that would impact a tiny minority of Americans.
Dem aides say they also expect a handful of Dem defections when the Rebuild America Jobs Act — whose goal is to create hundreds of thousands of jobs — is voted on this week. Senator Ben Nelson’s spokesman says he’s undecided, as are Mark Pryor and Jon Tester. But Dems expect to be able to make the case after the vote that the GOP caucus unanimously opposed an idea many Republicans have previously supported — simply because it’s paid for by slightly higher taxes on the ultra wealthy.
Indeed, a number of GOP Senators in the past have explicitly endorsed infrastructure spending — in different contexts — as a good way to spur economic growth or maintain economic competitiveness:
* Senator Susan Collins has claimed that reparing the nation’s transportation infrastructure is “essential to economic recovery and cannot be left solely to state governments.”
* Senator Lindsey Graham has claimed that “if you’re a Republican and you want to create jobs, then you need to invest in infrastructure that will allow us to create jobs.”
* Senator Richard Shelby has said: “Infrastructure spending is essential to our long term economic stability and growth.”
* Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson has claimed that an infrastructure bank is a “creative” way to spur “economic development and job growth.”
* Senator Richard Lugar has asserted that “addressing the aging infrastructure of our roads, bridges and railways is critical to our nation’s economic viability.”
A spokesperson for Lugar, Andy Fisher, tells me he will vote against the infrastructure bill this week, because he opposes “raising taxes to invest in infrastructure.” I’m waiting on other responses.
In fairness to these Senators, all these quotes came in different contexts from the battle over Obama’s proposal. But the point here is that all these Senators agree that in a general sense, infrastructure spending is important or even critical to help the economy and the country. They won’t support it in this case, however, because it would entail a tiny surtax on millionaires. This is the dealbreaker — and if a few moderate Dems join them, they, too, will be putting the interests of a tiny minority of Americans before the interests of the rest of us.
Indeed, a recent Citizens for Tax Justice analysis found that the 0.7 percent surtax paying for this plan to upgrade our infrastructure — which all these Senators think is crucial to our economy and future — would impact 1/500 of American taxpayers and would on average set them back an additional 1/217th of their overall income. Just to be clear on what we’re talking about here.
UPDATE: Senator Susan Collins is still undecided on the bill, spokesman Kevin Kelley emails:
As Ranking Member of the Senate Transportation Appropriations subcommittee, Senator Collins fully understands the need to invest in America’s transportation infrastructure. She is carefully looking at the proposal and how it would be paid for.