Dynamics in the House are very different from that in the Senate last month when 19 Republicans – including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell – voted to pass a law that allows reconstruction of American roads and bridges, strengthens the network broadly. band across the country and gives Republicans and Democrats a rare opportunity to mark a bipartisan achievement in the election campaign next fall.
For House Republicans, voting “yes” on the bipartisan bill later this month could be far more of a handicap. Former President Donald Trump, who still wields unparalleled influence over the conference, urged members to vote against. Members of the hard-line House Freedom Caucus have threatened to campaign against GOP colleagues who vote “yes”, and outside conservative groups like the Club For Growth have already alerted members they are calling for a “no” vote .
Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia – who has previously threatened to campaign against her “weak” Republican colleagues who support the $ 1.2 trillion package – said GOP lawmakers should be “ashamed and never again. vote ”if they support the plan.
Texas Representative Chip Roy said he agreed, calling it “absurd” that 19 Senate Republicans backed the bill.
Even the top Republican, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, has made it clear that he is opposed to the bipartisan bill in its current form, potentially anticipating an effort by leaders to sink the government. law Project.
“As I read Bill now, I couldn’t support it,” McCarthy recently said in an interview with Fox Business Network. “I have great frustration with this bill.”
The Republican Study Committee, the largest Tory caucus in the House, began circulating a memo last month against the compromise bill.
Members and aides say it’s too early to know exactly how many Republican members might vote to advance the legislation or how much combat leadership will put in place to defeat it, but aides are predicting the number of GOP votes at stake would only be a few dozen. Unlike in the Senate where the bipartisan bill received a stand-alone vote weeks before a larger, Democrat-only proposal was ready, in the House, the bipartisan bill is expected to arrive around the same time that the Democrats are preparing to vote on legislation that will expand federal health care programs, raise taxes and reinvent the social safety net.
In order to satisfy her caucus, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made a commitment from the start not to move the bipartisan infrastructure bill until the House has completed its more important proposal, which, according to Republicans, allowed them to argue that the two bills, which are separate proposals, are inextricably linked.
With only a three-vote margin, Pelosi had to be cautious in securing both moderate and progressive votes on both packages and promised moderates that she would introduce the bipartisan bill by September 27 at the latest, but Republicans don’t wait until then to begin their effort to message the bill.
For months, the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, Representative Kevin Brady of Texas, has directly engaged members on how Democrats are using their reconciliation bill as an opportunity to repeal the GOP tax cuts that were their signature under Trump. The Republicans on the committee managed a “war room” and worked to directly educate members on the only Democratic bill that would raise taxes for some Americans.
“If they continue to be linked and they continue to be pushed as a whole, it is quite difficult for Republicans infrastructure professionals like me to vote for this,” said Representative Rodney Davis of Illinois , one of the top Republicans on the House Transport Committee. and a member of the whip team, told CNN.
Republicans say much of the outcome of the bipartisan bill depends on when and when Pelosi addresses the two elements of the infrastructure program.
“The biggest concern for most Republicans I’ve spoken to is the fact that the $ 3.5 trillion package is still hanging out there as a bad guy,” Rep. Dusty Johnson, a South Dakota Republican who serves as a whip for bipartisan problem-solvers. Caucus, told CNN. “The fact that we can get a 3.5 trillion dollar package adopted at some point before or shortly after the passage of a trillion dollar infrastructure package, I mean it complicates the way. to follow. there is no doubt. “
Democrats hope the political benefits of the “yes” vote on the bipartisan infrastructure package will be too tempting for leading Republicans to pass up. A Fox News poll in August, for example, found that 62% of the public supported the $ 1.2 trillion package.
For Conservative MPs in safe red seats, a vote against the bipartisan infrastructure bill may be easier, but for MPs in tough re-elections, new investments in roads and bridges offer an easy and tangible sense of proving to their constituents that they are keeping their promises. district. Democrats are also hoping that the recent natural disasters that have wreaked havoc across the country will renew the sense of urgency to invest in the country’s aging infrastructure.
But there is no indication that Republicans have changed their minds in recent days. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, whose home state of Louisiana was ravaged by Hurricane Ida, is still expected to oppose the measure.
“I am against the $ 5,000 billion far-left tax hike and the Green New Deal agenda masquerading as an infrastructure bill,” Scalise told CNN in a statement.
And fellow Louisiana Republican Garret Graves told a committee meeting last week that it was “ridiculous” to spend trillions of dollars on the reconciliation plan and said the committee’s priorities were completely out of step with what was needed in terms of how the federal response can be strengthened to respond to natural disasters.
While many moderate Republicans may support the core content of the bipartisan infrastructure bill, they also feel comfortable opposing the measure if it is seen as paving the way for a massive spending program. Democrats on social programs and climate change.
It’s unclear if and how many GOP votes Democrats would need to pass their bipartisan legislation. If Democrats stay united, they won’t need it. But many progressives have yet to publicly commit to voting for the bipartisan bill. With that three-vote margin, Pelosi might need a handful of Republican votes to get legislation across the finish line.
The GOP leadership has still not decided whether to formally oppose the plan, but the Freedom Caucus is publicly pressuring McCarthy to do so, arguing that they shouldn’t be the ones bailing out Pelosi. While flogging against the bill would certainly appease McCarthy’s right flank – and increase pressure on Democrats to vote for themselves – it could also alienate moderate Republicans in major swing districts who are considering supporting the measure. .
Some of them already felt burnt out earlier this year when McCarthy delegated one of his allies, GOP Representative John Katko from New York, to strike a deal on a commission to investigate the attack. of January 6 against the Capitol. McCarthy said he would let members vote according to their conscience, but then unofficially encouraged members to oppose the bipartisan agreement and ultimately voted against himself.
Even if GOP leaders decide to actively campaign against the bipartisan infrastructure bill, a member of the bipartisan problem-solving committee predicted that there could be as many as 30 House Republicans crossing the lines party to support the bill, noting the large bipartisan vote in the Senate. provides them with some coverage.
Representative Don Bacon, a Republican from Nebraska who represents a district won by Biden, said he would likely vote for the legislation – but only if it is decoupled from the reconciliation package.
“I think the majority of problem-solvers and many in the Main Street Republican caucus (will vote for the bill) if the hard infrastructure bill is not tied to Bernie Sanders’ Democratic Socialist plan of $ 3.5 trillion, “Bacon told CNN. “They have to be totally separate votes.”
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story distorted Rep. Kevin Brady’s war room purpose. It is intended to pressure Republicans against the Democrats’ $ 3.5 trillion reconciliation bill.