The sales pitch, though, has clearly left plenty to be desired.
A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows even Republican voters remain evenly split on the proposal. Despite the calls for targeting the 13 Republicans who had the temerity to support the bill, 46 percent of Republican voters say they support spending $1 trillion on infrastructure, compared with 47 percent who oppose it.
The survey is one of the first big polls since the Nov. 5 passage of the bill, which Biden signed Monday. In other words, Trump et. al. are all calling for excommunicating people who voted for something that nearly half of Republican voters actually appear to support.
And crucially, that was the case even days after passage — and after the outcry began (the poll was conducted Nov. 7-10). While the poll described the proposal more broadly without attaching it to the specific bill that passed, the fact that it doesn’t raise more GOP hackles speaks to just how little the effort against the infrastructure bill has penetrated.
The GOP remains much more united against the other spending proposal Congress is still considering, Biden’s larger social spending package. In that case, 70 percent oppose spending nearly $2 trillion on climate change, schools and health-care programs, while 24 percent support it.
But the gap between those two reinforces the failure to truly push back against the infrastructure bill. Part of that is likely because lots of voters seem to like investing in infrastructure; Trump as president even pushed his own $1 trillion infrastructure proposal. But much of it also appears to be the fact that the effort really only fired up after the bill passed — and probably after it might have truly mattered.
While Republicans have accused Biden of spending way too much, the party took a somewhat hands-off approach to the infrastructure package specifically, focusing instead on Biden’s social spending bill. Seemingly in part because 19 Republican senators supported the infrastructure bill, House Republican leadership initially kept its powder dry, before somewhat gingerly coming out against it.
The cumulative result was that the infrastructure bill remained popular throughout the process. And when it ultimately came up for a vote, those 13 House Republicans had a decision to make. That they made the same decision as nearly 40 percent of GOP senators perhaps shouldn’t be too surprising.
If there’s something surprising, it’s that the pushback we now see wasn’t more concerted when it actually mattered most. If this is such apostasy, for example, why wasn’t there an effort to say that when those 19 GOP senators crossed over? The fact that it’s really only happening after passage — and after a much-smaller percentage of House Republicans voted for it — kind of gives away the game. Also giving away the game is that fact that much of the pushback deals not in the particulars of the bill, but the fact that helping pass it gave Biden a “win.”
The game involves a pattern we saw over and over again throughout Trump’s presidency. He often really only became interested in legislation when it became something he felt he could leverage politically. House GOP leaders had to know that might ultimately happen with the infrastructure bill, which is probably why they ultimately came out against it and at least tried to reduce defections.
But those who are truly incensed at what has transpired might want to ask how such a message wasn’t sent beforehand in a way that might actually matter. That message seems to be something that still isn’t really catching on in the GOP in a significant way.
That doesn’t mean these Republicans won’t have anything to worry about in their primaries; it just means all of this is perhaps less than meets the eye. Maybe the guy who claims he’s upset about $1 trillion for infrastructure after proposing $1 trillion for infrastructure himself — and who in some ways paved the way for what happened Nov. 5 by getting Republicans on board with at least the concept of infrastructure spending, as Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) reinforced Monday — is just saying stuff.