U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today discussed Democrats’ ongoing attempts to broaden the definition of “infrastructure” to include their progressive political agenda. Thune expressed his desire to work with Democrats on infrastructure legislation, but emphasized that the process should be bipartisan and focus on actual investments in infrastructure.
Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, I’m feeling a sense of déjà vu this morning.
“In March, Democrats used reconciliation to pass a massive, partisan bill that served as cover for a collection of payoffs to Democrat interest groups and Democrat states.
“Now, just over a month later, we’re facing the prospect of round two.
“Democrats are once again looking at reconciliation to pass a massive, partisan piece of legislation that serves as cover for a long wish list of liberal priorities.
“The subject this time, of course, is infrastructure – like COVID relief, a subject that Republicans are very ready to tackle.
“But just like with their COVID bill, Democrats aren’t showing a lot of interest in bipartisan cooperation.
“Once again, their message seems to be, “Go along with everything we want, or be completely excluded from any part in this bill.”
“Mr. President, as I said, Republicans would be happy to take up infrastructure legislation.
“Our nation is overdue for additional infrastructure investment.
“But an infrastructure bill should be focused on actual infrastructure.
“Digital infrastructure like broadband.
“Democrats have some of that in their bill.
“But they’re also busy expanding the definition of infrastructure to include a whole host of Democrat priorities.
“One Democrat senator tweeted, “Paid leave is infrastructure. Child care is infrastructure. Caregiving is infrastructure.”
“Well, actually, Mr. President, no they are not.
“Neither is the Civilian Climate Corps.
“Or community colleges.
“Or support for big labor.
“None of those things are infrastructure.
“Now, it may be that some – some – of Democrats’ non-infrastructure proposals are things that we should have a discussion about here in Congress.
“A bipartisan discussion.
“But they are not infrastructure, and they don’t belong in an infrastructure bill.
“And Democrats should stop rewriting the definition of infrastructure to suit their purposes.
“The word infrastructure is not, in fact, anything that Democrats say it is.
“’Infrastructure’ has an actual meaning.
“And it’s not child care or assistance for unions.
“Even Democrats’ actual infrastructure spending is frequently problematic.
“Democrats’ infrastructure proposal would cost $2.2 trillion.
“Less than 6 percent of that – less than 6 percent – would be spent on roads and bridges.
“Under Democrats’ plan, spending on electric vehicle promotion would exceed investments in roads, bridges, ports, and waterways combined.
“That includes tax credits and rebates for electric vehicles – measures that will primarily benefit wealthier car buyers and leave rural states like South Dakota, where electric vehicles remain impractical, behind.
“The bill also includes a massive sum for transit and high-speed rail – substantially more than the bill spends on highways, roads, and bridges – despite Americans’ limited interest in rail travel.
“On the tax front, Speaker Pelosi has expressed her interest in including a lifting of the current cap on state and local tax deductions.
“It’s an interesting priority for Democrats, considering that repealing the SALT deduction would mostly benefit wealthy taxpayers – including that evil 1 percent the Democrats are always talking about.
“But I guess principle sometimes has to take a back seat to keeping Democrat donors happy.
“And while we’re talking about taxes, let’s talk about how Democrats plan to (partially) pay for this bill.
“Democrats would like to – partially – pay for this legislation with the largest corporate tax increase in a generation.
“They would sharply increase the corporate tax rate, once again putting American companies at a disadvantage next to their foreign competitors and threatening American jobs and wages.
“It’s pretty hard to think of any worse proposal right now, with our economy still trying to recover from the effects of the pandemic.
“Mr. President, there is a history of bipartisan collaboration on infrastructure legislation.
“Our last major transportation infrastructure bill, the FAST Act, was supported by both Democrats and Republicans – and was a remarkably successful bill.
“Last Congress, the Environment and Public Works Committee here in the Senate developed bipartisan transportation infrastructure legislation.
“There is absolutely no reason why we couldn’t replicate past bipartisan success in this Congress.
“The word is that next week the Democrat leader is going to bring up a bipartisan water infrastructure bill that recently passed the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee unanimously.
“I hope he will.
“That should be our model for a larger infrastructure bill.
“Not the partisan process that Democrats embraced with their COVID legislation.
“Not the partisan, wasteful proposal full of non-infrastructure-related measures that Democrats have put forward.
“Mr. President, I saw an op-ed the other day that pointed out, and I quote, “President Biden promised to usher in a golden age of bipartisan cooperation, but instead he is showing a reverse Midas touch — taking issues that once united Republicans and Democrats and making them partisan and divisive.”
“Sad but true, Mr. President.
“But the president has a chance to turn that around with infrastructure.
“It’s not too late for Democrats and the president to sit down at the table with Republicans and develop a substantial, bipartisan proposal that would address our country’s infrastructure needs without spending taxpayer dollars on wasteful or extraneous proposals.
“I’m encouraged that President Biden is meeting with Republicans on infrastructure legislation.
“But I hope that these meetings are not just for show.
“The president met with Republicans on COVID legislation too – before rejecting bipartisan cooperation.
“Let’s hope he’ll choose a different path this time.
“It’s not too late for the president to start fulfilling his inauguration promise of unity and bipartisanship.“He should start with this infrastructure bill.”