Infrastructure Politics

Politicians gonna politician, but still...

US Representative Gary Palmer (AL-06) is touting the recently signed infrastructure bill because it will help fund a beltway in his district. His office released a statement on the bill, which I have provided in its entirety below:

The newly passed infrastructure bill, signed into law by President Biden, includes legislation introduced by Congressman Gary Palmer (AL-06) and Congressman David Trone (MD-06) that will provide critical funding to help complete the Northern Beltline. The provision in the infrastructure bill was inserted from the Finish the Appalachian Development Highway System (ADHS) Act and would provide $1.25 billion for construction of incomplete sections of the ADHS. More specifically, Alabama will receive $369 million over the next five years for construction of the Northern Beltline, Alabama’s only ADHS project that has yet to be completed. Congressman Palmer released the following statement: 

“Funding the Northern Beltline has consistently been one of my top priorities,” Palmer said. “Birmingham is currently one of the largest metropolitan areas in the country without a complete beltline around it. Completing the Northern Beltline will benefit the entire region and enhance economic development and employment opportunities. 

“The Appalachian Regional Commission has noted the completion will have an annual economic impact exceeding $2 billion in 10 years and has the potential to create 14,000 jobs,” Palmer concluded. “This is the opportunity we have been working for as a region and a state. Now is the time for us to take advantage of it and complete the work by finishing the Northern Beltline and building a better future for the Birmingham metro area and central Alabama.”

Well, sure, everyone likes more roads, right?

As AL.com reported about a week ago:

Plagued by a series of false starts since construction began seven years ago, the Birmingham Northern Beltline project has been revived with $360 million in funding earmarked in the bipartisan infrastructure package that passed Congress on Friday.

Work began on the 52-mile, six-lane corridor stretching from Interstate 59 in northeast Jefferson County to the I-459 interchange with I-59/20 near Bessemer in 2014, but construction was halted in 2016 after funding dried up.

The problem is, Palmer voted against the package, although he, in fact, did introduce the portion of the legislation for his district.

Also from Al.com:

The new injection of funding was placed into the infrastructure package by Rep. Gary Palmer, R-Vestavia Hills, who ironically voted against the bill, saying it contained wasteful spending.

Indeed, as the American Independent notes:

When the bill passed on Nov. 6, Palmer tweeted, “The Democrats’ recklessly expensive infrastructure bill finally passed tonight after weeks of disarray among their caucus.”

Look, is it possible to like certain aspects of a bill but still oppose the whole thing? Sure. But since the only way all the great things mentioned in the press release were going to happen was if this specific bill passed, one can’t help but be struck by the utter hypocrisy of it all.

Now, that a politician would seek to take advantage of both voting against a bill and still taking credit for good things in it is hardly a shock. Indeed, on one level this is about and congressy (that’s the technical term) thing as one can imagine.

However, the behavior of many of Campbell’s co-partisans makes this situation a bit harder to stomach, in at least two ways.

The first is a look back to 2017-2019, during which time the Republicans controlled the House, the Senate, and the White House, and “infrastructure week” never materialized. In other words, the Republicans in government at the time showed no real interest in addressing the infrastructural needs of the country. To me, this was a shirking of basic responsibility (not to mention politically a missed opportunity). More to the point, it struck me as part of the ongoing evidence of the lack of interest the GOP has in governance.

The second is the way some members of the party have reacted to their fellow Republicans who voted for the bill. Back to the American Independent:

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) had been saying since long before the vote on the bill that she would help fund primary challenges against any Republicans who voted in favor of it. Afterward, she made public the phone numbers of Republicans who had voted in favor and defended the move as they started to receive threats: “The calls will continue and primaries will ensue. Republicans in the House and the Senate need to learn a lesson.”

Those among the 13 who say they have received threats include Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), who shared on CNN a voicemail he’d received that said, “I hope you f—king die, I hope your family f—king dies, I hope everyone in your f—king staff dies.”

Politico reported that one of the 13 lawmakers who voted for the bill was getting so many angry calls that they redirected them to Greene’s office.

Former President Donald Trump has also vowed to endorse primary challengers against them. On Nov. 15, he endorsed John Gibbs, a challenger to Rep. Peter Meijer (R-MI) with a history of making offensive comments against Muslims, LGBTQ people, and others and promoting QAnon and other conspiracy theories.

This is, to put it bluntly, not healthy behavior for the party, nor for American politics.

Even this week, Mitch McConnell is defending his vote for the bill under pressure from party activists and Trump.

FILED UNDER: US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    The first is a look back to 2017-2019, during which time the Republicans controlled the House, the Senate, and the White House, and “infrastructure week” never materialized.

    And from 2019 -2021 the DEM House would have been quite happy to pass an infrastructure bill, but happy DEMs are anathema to the GOP.

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  2. Kathy says:

    This socialist, pedophile, country-destroying bill I voted against is the greatest thing evah!

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  3. matt bernius says:

    Good analysis as always Steven. And we saw this earlier this year as well if memory serves with the relief bill.

    Also, keeping in line with this, I think Jennifer Rubin’s analysis around Democratic Party success in actually legislating is correct:

    And with this bill @SpeakerPelosi becomes the greatest Speaker of the modern era, passing historic legislation (ACA, ARP, Infrastructure, BBB) with tiny margins. Let's also remember she supplied votes for TARP to save the US economy and twice impeached a lawless president.— Jennifer 'pro-voting' Rubin (@JRubinBlogger) November 19, 2021

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  4. Andy says:

    I think my long comment yesterday about weak parties and the centrality of the primary voter best explains this behavior.

    Historically, there are cases where this behavior is more rational.

    One, there is a very long history of politicians attaching “poison pills” to kill legislation. That used to be the common explanation for why a politician would vote against a bill they previously supported or amended. There has been a lot of otherwise popular legislation that was effectively killed or lost a significant number of votes due to poison pills.

    Second is hedging behavior – politicians may oppose a bill, but will seek to add amendments they like in case it passes. That is very common as well – or at least it used to be.

    But those are probably not at play here – the fear of getting primaried for not “owning the libs” is driving the current behavior of most GoP politicians.

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  5. @Andy: Like I said, it is less the behavior that I find problematic (and certainly not surprising), but rather it is the context in which is it is taking place (as well as evidence, yet again, that the GOP is not serious about governing).

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  6. MarkedMan says:

    @Andy: You could be right, but my take is a bit different. Republicans simply have no motivation to be for something not specifically requested by the relatively small number of patrons who tell them what to do and who they rely on for their funding and status. All they need from the masses is enough votes to keep their seat, and they don’t need to deliver anything to that group. Instead they on getting the them riled up about bathrooms or statues or people daring to teach that slavery was bad. They gain nothing by supporting something their patrons aren’t asking for. In fact, any time they support anything at all they run the risk of having it blow up in their face. So they keep up the endless “That immigrant girlie-man stormed into the girls chastity-ring bathroom and shat on the statue of our sainted General Lee.” And their voters are energized bu that nonsense.

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  7. Jay L Gischer says:

    @matt bernius: Wow, Kevin McCarthy must find statements like Rubin’s to be irritating.

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  8. Gustopher says:

    Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) had been saying since long before the vote on the bill that she would help fund primary challenges against any Republicans who voted in favor of it. Afterward, she made public the phone numbers of Republicans who had voted in favor and defended the move as they started to receive threats: “The calls will continue and primaries will ensue. Republicans in the House and the Senate need to learn a lesson.”

    In a healthy democracy, we do not beat elected representatives with a cane. But, I think we all have to ask — are we a healthy democracy?

    Look, I’m not saying that anyone should beat Marjorie Taylor Greene with a cane, and I would be appalled if someone took this as an endorsement of violence. I’m just asking, “are we healthy democracy?”

    We have to do something to deal with the increasing insanity and anti-democracy in the Republican party, and there is a precedent for caning in our legislatures (although traditionally, only those opposed to slavery are beaten in such a fashion, and it is more of a Senate than a House tradition).

    Again, not an endorsement — there are a lot of legislative traditions that exist, but which we should get rid of. The filibuster, for instance.

    There are a lot of elderly congress-persons, and likely a relatively large number of available canes on the House floor.

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  9. matt bernius says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    Wow, Kevin McCarthy must find statements like Rubin’s to be irritating.

    Honestly, right now I think McCarthy is far more concerned about how to prevent Jim Jordan from becoming the next Speaker of the House. I think that’s what last night’s performance was primarily about.

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  10. Scott F. says:

    This is, to put it bluntly, not healthy behavior for the party, nor for American politics.

    Shaming politicians for their behavior is so 2004.

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  11. @Gustopher:

    But, I think we all have to ask — are we a healthy democracy?

    I am not so sure that we are (indeed, I am pretty sure that we are not, sadly).

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  12. Dude Kembro says:

    Not out of the woods yet, as BBB must still get past Manchin’s billionaire corporate donors. But BBB is one of multiple emerging factors that should improve Democrats’ 2022 position.

    Pelosi is a badass, she will pass Rayburn as the Speaker GOAT if BBB gets to the Resolute Desk more or less in tact, and — alongside BIF — stimulates economic growth and energizes voters enough to save her majority.

    Inflation and supply chain issues are easing already: all big retailers announced full Christmas inventory, shipping container backlogs are down 25-50% since the October peak, oil is down ~10% in November, chipmakers announced their shortage is over, and Toyota and GM both announced returns to full production.

    Plus, Matt Gaetz and Mark Meadows are pledging to try to make Trump speaker if the GQP takes the House, then impeaching Biden and Harris. Democrats should force every Republican 2022 candidate to either support or run away from this scheme.

    Knowing Democrats’ dismal politicking ability though, I’m pessimistic about their ability to capitalize on all this.

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  13. Dude Kembro says:

    @matt bernius:

    Honestly, right now I think McCarthy is far more concerned about how to prevent Jim Jordan from becoming the next Speaker of the House.

    Matt Gaetz and Mark Meadows are both saying Trump should be speaker should Republicans flip the House, then installed into the presidency through impeaching Biden-Harris. MTG, Cawthorn, J.D. Vance, Ron Johnson and the other crazies will be quick to follow.

    That seems like as least as big a threat to McCarthy (and McConnell), since that’s the stuff Democrats need to wake up the Biden voters who didn’t show up for McAuliffe.

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  14. matt bernius says:

    @Gustopher:

    I think we all have to ask — are we a healthy democracy?

    No.

    And the reality is that most people either don’t care or don’t know what to do about that (and would prefer not to find out).

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  15. gVOR08 says:

    @Dude Kembro:

    Inflation and supply chain issues are easing already: all big retailers announced full Christmas inventory, shipping container backlogs are down 25-50% since the October peak, oil is down ~10% in November, chipmakers announced their shortage is over, and Toyota and GM both announced returns to full production.

    When inflation is down, deliveries are normal, and unemployment is low do you suppose the supposedly liberal MSM will run front page stories giving Biden credit? Somedays I just crack myself up.

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  16. Dude Kembro says:

    @gVOR08: Pfft. The MSM’s establishmentarian right wing narratives give credit to a president who puts American families ahead of war contractors, greedy billionaires, and rich corporations?

    I’m also laughing.

    By Election Day 2022, the legacy press will be attacking Biden for taking twenty whole months to successfully distribute vaccines, end a forever war, cut childhood poverty in half, rebuild America’s crumbling infrasture, renew mass transit, connect rural America with universal broadband, oversee record job and wage growth, solve the pandemic supply chain and inflation crises, lower prescription drug costs, and enact historic investments in childcare, universal pre-K, paid leave, and affordable housing.

    Brandon should’ve done it in five months or something. Also, he should smile more and be less woke.

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  17. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Just so. Ever since Gingrich engineered the wave election of 1994 by attacking all Dems (the good, the bad, and the ugly), the GOP has existed for one primary purpose: to get and keep power and to do everything possible to thwart any Democratic proposals when the Dems are in the majority. Actual governing is not in the picture.

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