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As infrastructure bill passes, Republicans take aim at each other

Thirteen House Republicans ended up voting for the bipartisan infrastructure package. That's not sitting well with their GOP colleagues.

As last week progressed, and Capitol Hill watchers assessed the likelihood of the House passing a bipartisan infrastructure package, one piece of legislative arithmetic seemed paramount: How many Democrats were prepared to balk?

The majority party's advantage in the chamber has been tiny all year, and Democratic leaders were painfully aware of the fact that if they intended to pass the bill — known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework (or BIF) — they could lose no more than three members.

When it came time for the floor vote, the Democratic leader ended up losing six votes from their conference — but the proposal passed anyway thanks to 13 votes from the Republican minority. (A total of 19 GOP senators voted for the same bill in August.)

And as USA Today reported, that's created a rather dramatic intra-party controversy for the GOP.

The $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that the House approved late Friday passed with the help of several Republicans, who faced a swift backlash Saturday from their GOP colleagues.... [T]he GOP members faced harsh criticism afterward for supporting the bill, including from fellow Republican members.

For those keeping score, these were the 13 House Republicans who ended up voting for the bipartisan package (in alphabetical order, by last name):

  • Don Bacon of Nebraska
  • Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania
  • Andrew Garbarino of New York
  • Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio
  • John Katko of New York
  • Adam Kinzinger of Illinois
  • Nicole Malliotakis of New York
  • David McKinley of West Virginia
  • Tom Reed of New York
  • Christopher Smith of New Jersey
  • Fred Upton of Michigan
  • Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey
  • Don Young of Alaska

To put it mildly, they're not exactly the most popular members of their conference right now. Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, for example, demanded that the party "hold these fake Republicans accountable." Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina vowed to support primary campaigns against each of the 13 (some of whom are not running for re-election). Donald Trump added that these 13 GOP lawmakers "should be ashamed of themselves."

Prominent conservative media outlets, including National Review and the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal, published similar reactions.

Let's unpack this a bit.

First, there was plenty about this bill for Republicans to like. Its size was dramatically reduced to broaden its bipartisan appeal, and it didn't touch the GOP's Trump-era tax breaks for the wealthy and big corporations. Second, and relatedly, infrastructure investments tend to be quite popular — and the last time I checked, some congressional incumbents are thinking about the next election cycle.

Indeed, I'm looking forward to seeing how many GOP opponents of this bill show up at the ribbon-cutting ceremonies in their states and districts.

But perhaps most importantly, congressional Republicans have struggled to explain what it is about the bill they don't like. Several GOP members called the bipartisan bill "socialism." One called it "communism." Some said they voted against this legislation because they don't like a different piece of legislation, while others complained that the bill was on the floor too late in the evening.

Each of these arguments was quite foolish and impossible to take seriously. They also represented a fig leaf of sorts: Nearly 90 percent of congressional Republicans opposed the bipartisan infrastructure package because they wanted to deny President Joe Biden a victory.

That's pitiful, and it undermines how our system is supposed to work, but it's the obvious truth many GOP officials are eager to deny.