There’s nothing partisan about a road or a bridge or an airport; Democrats and Republicans have voted to spend billions on them for decades and long supported rebuilding plans in their own states. On Thursday, though, when President Obama’s plan to spend $60 billion on infrastructure repairs came up for a vote in the Senate, not a single Republican agreed to break the party’s filibuster.
That’s because the bill would pay for itself with a 0.7 percent surtax on people making more than $1 million. That would affect about 345,000 taxpayers, according to Citizens for Tax Justice, adding an average of $13,457 to their annual tax bills. Protecting that elite group — and hewing to their rigid antitax vows — was more important to Senate Republicans than the thousands of construction jobs the bill would have helped create, or the millions of people who would have used the rebuilt roads, bridges and airports.
Senate Republicans filibustered the president’s full jobs act last month for the same reasons. And they have vowed to block the individual pieces of that bill that Democrats are now bringing to the floor. Senate Democrats have also accused them of opposing any good idea that might put people back to work and rev the economy a bit before next year’s presidential election.
There is no question that the infrastructure bill would be good for the flagging economy — and good for the country’s future development. It would directly spend $50 billion on roads, bridges, airports and mass transit systems, and it would then provide another $10 billion to an infrastructure bank to encourage private-sector investment in big public works projects.
Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Republican of Texas, co-sponsored an infrastructure-bank bill in March, and other Republicans have supported similar efforts over the years. But the Republicans’ determination to stick to an antitax pledge clearly trumps even their own good ideas.
A competing Republican bill, which also failed on Thursday, was cobbled together in an attempt to make it appear as if the party has equally valid ideas on job creation and rebuilding. It would have extended the existing highway and public transportation financing for two years, paying for it with a $40 billion cut to other domestic programs. Republican senators also threw in a provision that would block the Environmental Protection Agency from issuing new clean air rules. Only in the fevered dreams of corporate polluters could that help create jobs.
Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, bitterly accused Democrats of designing their infrastructure bill to fail by paying for it with a millionaire’s tax, as if his party’s intransigence was so indomitable that daring to challenge it is somehow underhanded.
The only good news is that the Democrats aren’t going to stop. There are many more jobs bills to come, including extension of unemployment insurance and the payroll-tax cut. If Republicans are so proud of blocking all progress, they will have to keep doing it over and over again, testing the patience of American voters.