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GOP tries to oppose Biden's plan without opposing infrastructure

Republicans are trying to thread a needle, opposing proposed infrastructure investments while agreeing that the US needs to invest more in infrastructure.
Construction workers build the \"Signature Bridge\" in Miami on March 17, 2021.
Construction workers build the "Signature Bridge" in Miami on March 17, 2021.Joe Raedle / Getty Images

On "Meet the Press" yesterday, NBC News' Chuck Todd reminded Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) that a recent report from the American Society of Civil Engineers offered bad news for the senator's home state of Mississippi. On everything from bridges to roads to drinking water, the evidence pointed to Mississippi's systemic infrastructure needs.

With this in mind, as the White House moves forward with an ambitious infrastructure initiative, the host asked Wicker -- who serves as the ranking member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee -- whether he sees the issue as a priority. The Republican replied:

"Listen, I'm all for working with the administration on an infrastructure bill. And yes, we need it in Mississippi. And I voted for it as a state legislator and as a member of the House Appropriations Committee. And let me tell you, I think I can work with [Transportation Secretary] Pete Buttigieg."

Around the same time, his state's governor, Mississippi's Tate Reeves (R) conceded on CNN that "there's no doubt" that his state could benefit from federal infrastructure investments.

On Fox News, meanwhile, Chris Wallace asked Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a member of the Senate Republican leadership, "Doesn't the country need a significant infrastructure upgrade?" The Missourian replied, "Oh, absolutely.... We need that."

And if we simply ended the conversation here, there'd be reason for some optimism about a bipartisan breakthrough. Democrats and Republicans, at least at the national level, may not agree on much when it comes to public policy, but just about all of the relevant players seem to agree that infrastructure investments deserve to be a leading U.S. priority.

The trouble is, that's about all the relevant players agree on.

Wicker denounced President Joe Biden's American Jobs Plan because it includes an increase to the corporate tax rate. When Chuck Todd asked the senator, "How would you pay for infrastructure? Where would you get the money?" Wicker responded, "Well, listen. I'm open to suggestion about that."

Oh.

Pressed on the same point by Jake Tapper, Reeves added yesterday, "Well, I think you pay for it in a number of different ways. One way you pay for it is by seeing significant improved economic growth." That made far less sense than the governor seemed to realize.

As the Washington Post's James Downie noted overnight, Republicans appear to be "drawing a blank on basic governance."

Quite right. GOP officials don't want to take a stand against infrastructure investments, in part because the nation needs them, and in part because they're broadly popular with the American public.

But these same Republicans also don't want to endorse ambitious infrastructure legislation because they know it might lead to some tax increases, especially on big businesses, which the party will not consider. What's an alternative source of revenue? They're reluctant to talk about it.

As a result, GOP leaders are trying their best to thread a needle, opposing proposed infrastructure investments while agreeing that the nation needs to invest more in infrastructure.

Between this posturing and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) insistence last week that congressional Republicans won't support the White House's proposal, is it any wonder that Democrats are prepared to legislate without their GOP colleagues?