‘Hope it’s a fever that will break’: GOP struggles with backlash in infrastructure

‘Hope it’s a fever that will break’: GOP struggles with backlash in infrastructure

It’s a hardening of the party already shaping its approach to the midterm elections that not only will have Republicans up and down the vote against the incumbent president, but they won’t support anything that could help Biden push his sunken public approval ratings. improve in between.

And they punish all moderate Republicans who do.

“That’s how things work now,” said former Rep. Tom Davis, a Republican from Virginia who chaired the National Republican Congressional Committee. “That’s what we went for.”

In the days since the House vote, the 13 Republicans who voted with Democrats on spending on roads and bridges — once one of the driest, most bipartisan exercises on the hill — have been devastated by Trump and his allies. who called the defectors “traitors” and suggested that they be stripped of their committee duties.

At least one of them, Rep. Michigan’s Fred Upton said he received “dirty” death threats — which barely stopped his Trump-backed primary opponent, Michigan state representative Steve Carra, from piling up.

“This man stabbed Donald Trump in the back,” Carra wrote in a fundraising appeal on Tuesday. “Let’s crush him.”

Some of the resistance against the 13 was sparked by their colleagues. One of them, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), tweeted the phone numbers of the wayward Republicans.

Rep. Madison Cawthorn (RN.C) threatened retaliation. “Vote for this infrastructure bill and I’ll help you out,” he wrote.

“Some elements of the party,” said Ed Rogers, the veteran Republican lobbyist and strategist, “continue to find new ways to define Republicanism: ‘Do you think Trump won the election? Do you think everyone who voted for the infrastructure package is a sale and has caused great damage to flag and country?’”

He said, “I hope it’s a fever that’ll break.”

It seemed possible last week that the GOP’s fixation on Trump would have at least eased. Republican Glenn Youngkin, who kept Trump at a distance from the Virginia governorate’s race, proved that Republicans could pull out the suburban and independent voters who defected from Trump, while also outperforming Trump with his nationwide base. Republicans needed Trump’s supporters, but for the first time it seemed possible they might not need the former president himself.

But the infrastructure blowout made it clear how quickly Trump could reaffirm himself — and impose new litmus tests — on the party. As the GOP looks to extend its victories from last week ahead of next year’s midterm exams, it is simultaneously shrinking into a concentrated and more trumped-up version of itself, leaving less room than ever for the few centrist Republicans who survived the Trump presidency.

Glen Bolger, the longtime Republican pollster, said that in a general election, the 13 Republicans who voted for an infrastructure bill might be able to tell their voters that they have set priorities, such as repairing roads and bridges. But that’s assuming they make it this far.

“They’ve put themselves at risk because they’re facing primary challenges,” Bolger said. “Many of those districts are positive in general elections. But if you don’t survive the primary, you won’t make it to the general.”

In another era, the uproar over infrastructure would have been unheard of.

The influence of infrastructure-dependent companies — which were once a central part of the GOP’s fundraising base — has pushed Republicans to support public works, and Republicans have historically been sensitive to calls about the jobs infrastructure spending can create or persist. It was President Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican, whose administration built the highway system. In the 1980s, more than 100 members of the Republican House voted to raise the gas tax to fund improvements to highways and public transportation, a measure Ronald Reagan signed into law. And Trump, as a candidate for president, proposed a nearly $1 trillion infrastructure plan.

To a House member from a swing district, Davis said, “This makes sense in the world.”

“People want to see infrastructure, they want to see people working together,” he said.

But Republicans also have an interest in denying Biden, whose public approval ratings have fallen, anything akin to a win. And Davis predicted that in the primaries, some House Republicans who voted for the bill “will take a hit. … The people who watch Fox and Breitbart and stuff like that will have a negative view of this.”

“I wonder if it was a thoughtful analysis that this bill is overspending,” said Tom Campbell, a former Republican congressman in California and a staff member of the Reagan administration who started collecting registrations for his new party, the Common Sense Party, last year. “If so, I would respect it a lot more. But I don’t think it was. I think it was much more like, ‘Let’s let the Democrats fail.’”

Bill McCoshen, a Wisconsin-based Republican strategist, said if the House had passed the bill when the Senate passed it with bipartisan support in August, it was possible more House Republicans would have signed on.

“But once it became a problem for the Democrats because they couldn’t pull it off,” he said, “I’m surprised they got Republican votes… Especially after Virginia and the proximity to New Jersey, they had [Biden] a slack president this year.”

It is possible that the rallying cry for infrastructure will fade. Only four of the 13 Republicans who voted for the infrastructure bill were among those who more seriously overruled Trump by voting for his impeachment, and two of them, Reps Adam Kinzinger of Illinois and Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio do not want to be re-elected next year. If last week’s elections were any indication, cultural issues will likely energize the electorate far more than public works next year.

A Republican strategist who worked on House campaigns said the risk to those incumbents is minimal in part because, except in extreme cases, most big-spending super-PACs will be reluctant to support efforts to support them. prime.

“Even if they hate them, they know it’s a better use of their money to play in an open Republican primaries, and most moderates know that,” the strategist said. “So they know they just have to endure a few weeks of saber-rattling.”

The defectors who voted for the infrastructure bill could also benefit from support from state and local Republican Party officials who have been asking for infrastructure money for years. The funding priorities enshrined in the bill last week are more mundane — and far less controversial — than the money for high-speed trains that some Republican governors turned down during former President Barack Obama’s first term.

“That was narrow,” Rogers said. “This is much more discretionary. You can do a lot more with it.”

Republicans can continue to complain about the bill. But Rogers predicted, “Everyone will be at the ribbon cuttings.”

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Rachel Meadows

Rachel Meadows

Trending topics news writer who enjoys cooking, walking her dog and travel.

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