Now that we’re getting to see the particulars of this “infrastructure” deal Cassidy has spent the last couple of weeks making an abject ass of himself crowing about, the full depth of the Washington Generals-style idiocy he and these other GOP senators have engaged in can be known.
The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberly Strassel does a pretty good job of summing this mess up…
A bipartisan group of 10 senators last weekend finally released the 2,702 pages of their infrastructure bill. Explaining that they’d worked “day and night” to finalize the legislation, they touted their work product as a “historic” investment in “hard infrastructure” that will “create good-paying jobs.” As well the GOP members of the group might. “Infrastructure” sounds a lot better than “spendathon,” “central planning,” “corporate bailouts,” “Solyndra” and “Green New Deal.” All of which are the real descriptors of this behemoth.
Polls show a majority of Americans support the idea of infrastructure spending, so the bill takes care to lead with items that most people associate with that term—highways, bridges, tunnels, ports, waterways. Yet according to a breakout from the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, those provisions account for about $127 billion, or a mere 23%, of the bill’s $548 billion in new spending. Public transit gets $39 billion, and rail and Amtrak $66 billion, even though a scant fraction of Americans regularly ride them. Then there’s the $21 billion earmarked for “environmental remediation,” or the $50 billion under the catchall category of climate “resilience and western water storage.”
The bill is better viewed as step one of President Biden’s Green New Deal, giving his appointees and federal bureaucrats tens of billions with which to remake the economy. The Energy Department gets more than $20 billion to reprise its failed role as a green-energy venture capitalist. The Federal Emergency Management Agency gets $3.5 billion to deal with flooding. There’s new money for the National Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Forest Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, you name it.
The bill similarly gives the feds unprecedented and centralized control over chunks of the economy. Washington will now dictate rules in areas that have traditionally been managed by local authorities (such as drinking water) even as it muscles in on private-sector enterprises like broadband. The bill turns Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg into an electric-vehicle czar, with authority to pinpoint new charging stations down to the mile marker.
And let’s not forget corporate America. The Washington Post reports the bill has unleashed a “lobbying bonanza,” with more than 2,000 companies and groups engaging Washington officials on infrastructure this year alone. The bill creates a $6 billion handout for nuclear companies, which could benefit such paupers as Exelon and Southern Co. And any C-suite that dreams up a program for this-or-that green technology will be in line for federal cash.
Finally, there are the fictional pay-fors. A big reason the team struggled for so long to get the text out is that everyone understands there is no extra money in Washington. So while the authors claim the bill is paid for, in fact it rests on gimmicks—like the claim that by delaying a Medicare rule that will cost money, Congress is “saving” those dollars. These are the kind of tricks Republicans normally excoriate Democrats over. Most GOP members wanted most new spending to be covered by unused Covid funds. But the White House snarled, and negotiators rolled over.
Mr. Biden and Democrats are thrilled with this bill, and they should be. They got everything both sides wanted (roads, bridges, ports) and then a great deal more of the left’s agenda. GOP negotiators are internally talking up what they kept out of the bill, namely a Biden plan to expand Internal Revenue Service enforcement authority. But there’s no guarantee Democrats won’t turn around and use that to fund their follow-on $3.5 trillion reconciliation blowout.
Cassidy’s colleague from Louisiana John Kennedy, who has been pretty quiet about the infrastructure deal, is not quiet today…
“The infrastructure bill will cost taxpayers $1.2 trillion, $550 billion in new spending. The bill is 2,700 pages—twice as long as the Bible. We were given only a few days to read it.
“This is not an infrastructure bill. It’s an infrastructure, Green New Deal and welfare bill. Only 23 percent of the new spending in the bill is for actual infrastructure.
“We were told the bill would be paid for. That’s not accurate. It would increase America’s deficit by at least $256 billion. That’s more than the entire GDP of Louisiana.
“We were told the bill does not raise taxes. That’s not accurate. It raises taxes on Louisiana industry specifically.
“It has been represented that Louisiana will receive $6 billion in new money for infrastructure. That’s not accurate. We would have received more than $4.8 billion anyway from the Federal Highway Trust Fund even if the infrastructure bill had not passed. Louisiana will only receive $1.1 billion in new money over 10 years, or about $110 million a year. That is less than 10 percent of the $12 billion that Sen. Schumer will get for a single tunnel in New York.
“Louisiana’s money is in effect coming from new taxes on Louisiana businesses. Louisiana petrochemical manufacturers will pay an estimated $1.3 billion in new taxes over 10 years, or $130 million a year—second only to Texas.
“So, Louisiana will receive $110 million a year in new road money and pay for it with roughly $130 million in new taxes that impact more than 100,000 chemical jobs. Louisiana is losing money on this deal.
“The infrastructure bill and the second bill right behind it—the $5.5 trillion tax-and-spending binge—are joined at the hip. President Biden, Sen. Schumer and Speaker Pelosi have all said we won’t have one without the other. The proponents of the infrastructure bill say it makes it harder to pass the tax-and-spending binge, so why is every Democrat in the Senate voting for the infrastructure bill?
“I also voted against the infrastructure bill because it provides no disaster aid for southwest Louisiana.
“Additionally, this bill is an inflation bomb. I don’t usually brag about the expensive places I go, but I just came back from the gas station. This bill is going to make prices worse.
“This bill shortchanges Louisiana and America. I support infrastructure, but not ‘at any cost.’ I support infrastructure, but not ‘no matter what.’ This is not really an infrastructure bill. It contains new taxes, and we will still have to borrow money to pay for the bill. It severely deepens the debt that we’re leaving for Louisiana’s children and grandchildren.
“The proponents of the infrastructure bill say that it shows that Washington works. It does not. It just shows that Washington can spend money that it doesn’t have.”
We don’t really want to belabor the point, but it needs to be understood – the problem with Bill Cassidy is that he’s a dinosaur. Cassidy is an old-fashioned “consensus” politician, the type the Republican Party turned out again and again during the Bush era of the GOP (and before the Bushes, these guys were known as Rockefeller Republicans). They believe the correct strategy for negotiation is to purse a “win-win.”
And they stupidly, mistakenly believe that the Democrats are similarly oriented. But they aren’t. Democrats are looking for “win-lose” negotiations. They’re out to take everything.
Which is what they’ve done here. The proper negotiating posture for a “bipartisan” infrastructure deal should have included the following, and if any of these items were not agreed on there should have been no bipartisan flavor to anything.
- Only those items of basic infrastructure – roads, bridges, tunnels, waterway improvements, ports, airports – should have been addressed.
- Every dime of the infrastructure funding should have been paid for through actual cuts to the size of government.
- A commitment in writing not to push any budget reconciliation plan with solely Democrat votes should have been a prerequisite to this deal.
- A commitment in writing not to seek the end of the Senate filibuster for the rest of the current Congress should also have been a prerequisite.
Those are very reasonable asks, and they’re narrowly tailored to the current negotiation. If the Democrats actually cared about getting an infrastructure deal they would have agreed.
But they didn’t. They proved that when President Trump, for four years, attempted to get an infrastructure deal but couldn’t. Democrat bad faith scuttled that process even though it was in the best interest of their constituents to work with him on a clean infrastructure package. And the Washington Generals “win-win” negotiators proceeded to help them avoid consequences for that by giving them a one-sided deal.
Under the stupid hope that anything they didn’t negotiate as part of this package which the Democrats want won’t pass as part of the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package Cassidy says Nancy Pelosi can’t pass. Which is beyond a fanciful position to take, and when the reconciliation piece does pass, Bill Cassidy will look like an unmitigated moron. At that point he might as well put a dog collar on, attach a leash to it and bring the leash to Chuck Schumer.
The way these infrastructure bills ought to work in any event is they ought to be block grant money to states to supplement their capital outlay packages. The states know a lot better than the feds do what their infrastructure needs are. And if states steal the block grant money, well, that’s what the Department of Justice is for. If you want, then have the state legislatures send up requests in writing for their needs to be addressed in the block grants, and be subject to an audit of that spending.
Instead, it all comes top down. Which as we’ve seen, gives Cassidy a chance to crow about all the projects he got funded in the infrastructure bill.
But you won’t hear him crow about all the terrible garbage he’s making us swallow so that there’s money for a new bridge in Baton Rouge or for I-49 south from Lafayette through Bayou Country.
It isn’t so much that Bill Cassidy is a RINO or that he’s a sellout, though we are far from arguing he’s not those things. It’s that after all this time in public office he still doesn’t understand why the voters sent him to DC in the first place.
A state like Louisiana which votes Republican at a sixty percent clip is looking for strong voices who won’t fall for the kind of foolishness this bill represents. Not weaklings who get rolled over and then act like they’ve accomplished something.
We would say he ought to resign. But with John Bel Edwards as Louisiana’s governor, things might actually get worse if he didn’t. Edwards would appoint a Democrat to replace Cassidy, and until the public got a chance to vote in a special election you’d have 51 Democrats in the Senate and there would be an absolute legislative rout for however many months until the new senator was installed.
And we can’t afford that.
But increasingly we can’t afford the obsolete Washington Generals style of politics Cassidy practices. Shilling for “L’s” as the country burns is a disaster for Louisiana and for America. We’re stuck with Cassidy for at least 2 1/2 more years until Edwards is gone, and more than likely 5 1/2 more years until his term ends.
That figures to be an excruciatingly long stretch of time.