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A Contrarian Take on Republicans Voting for BIF

A note from a Senator observer, for what it’s worth:

Anyway, after watching this all unfold since Friday night, I think it’s been interesting to see how folks have reacted. So far, a good chunk of conservatives have responded negatively, but even so I feel better than I did a few months back about how it’s all playing out.

One, I think passage of the BIF provided the strongest evidence yet that it has never really been linked to the BBB, other than in prog’s minds. That’s been McConnell’s position as well, which for some is good enough to show that supporting BIF was a good strategic decision.

But, more than that, everyone in Congress is acutely aware that giving the progs a vote on the BBB “rule” was nothing more than a fig leaf. That they agreed to take a vote on the rule in exchange for the BIF was their acknowledgment that the only power they have is to kill the BIF, not to advance the BBB. I saw what progs did on Friday as a rather epic cave.

Two, I have been trying to game out what would have happened if all 13 R’s voted no on Friday. In my view, it might have drawn out the chaos another few days, but not much more than that. I see things a lot more like those who think failure of the BIF would have done a few different things, none of which would be good for us in the long run: 1) pissed off Manchin and Sinema, thereby creating a new x-factor in negotiations; 2) strengthened the hand of the progs who would demand more from the mods to get BIF done. That’s because they would see the only votes possible to get what they want available on the left, rather than the right. Neither of these results would be good for our side.

Three, I don’t follow the argument for why passage of the BIF greases the path for the BBB. At bottom, they are not procedurally linked in any way, but I know that fact alone isn’t good enough to make the point (though it’s a better point than many credit, IMO). A better starting point is probably to go back to the fact that Dems were originally only talking about doing everything – physical and “human” infrastructure – as a package deal. They never wanted to split them up, because they hoped physical infrastructure would drag the other stuff across the line. That’s why they called it “infrastructure.” By taking out the stuff that was popular, the BIF ultimately robbed them of that chance, which is why they are having so much trouble uniting now.

A lot has been made of the mod’s statement of support on Friday night for the BBB, which some say shows they will ultimately support BBB. But, a close reading actually shows how weak the statement was, and how easy it will be (based on the wording) for them to walk away if CBO gives them any opportunity at all. And then, of course, there is Senate passage to consider.

Fourth, the last point is just one about what’s actually in the bill. For some reason, there’s this view going around that “it’s not really an infrastructure bill.” I actually think that’s based on few fairly easily refuted things going around about the bill. Very little of what’s in there wouldn’t fit the traditional definition of infrastructure, but the line of attack was made early on and just got repeated a lot by conservatives.

In the end, I think a lot of the intensity around this debate comes down to predicting the future, and that’s what gives me pause in judging it all. I obviously think the case for the BIF was strong and has gotten stronger as events play out. But, only time will tell if it ultimately proves right. By the same token, I think those who very confidently seem to know this is a disaster for conservatives would also do well to wonder if they’re right. If we get past the midterms and win back either the House or the Senate, and the major cost was the BIF (in short, a beefed up surface transportation reauthorization), but the filibuster is intact, we should consider that a major achievement.

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