The 13 Republicans Who Saved Biden’s Infrastructure Bill Aren’t Martyrs

The 13 Republicans Who Saved Biden’s Infrastructure Bill Aren’t Martyrs

Giving Democrats an undeserved win wasn’t just bad politics. It was an example of old-time corrupt deal-making. Yet the 13’s critics are being portrayed as violent ‘insurrectionists.’
Jonathan S. Tobin
By

When the House passed President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill on Nov. 5, Democrats got a new group of Republicans to lionize. The 13 GOP members of the House who bucked their party to vote in favor of the bill and enable it to pass by a 228-206 margin were elevated that day from the status of anti-democratic “insurrectionists” — as Democrats term virtually all Republicans these days — to that of heroes and martyrs.

In addition to the 18 Senate Republicans who voted likewise, the 13 in the House who voted for the $1 trillion bill, which Biden signed this week, gave the Democrats their first victory after a string of policy failures and the red wave in the off-year elections in Virginia and New Jersey. In doing so, they have now joined the 10 GOP members who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump in January as belonging to the category of people that leftist corporate media considers good Republicans.

Much like the “Profiles in Courage” treatment received by the 10 who backed the impeachment of a president after he had already left office, the 13 are now enjoying the kind of coverage in outlets like The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, and MSNBC that they could never hope to get if they voted their voters’ principles. But as with the impeachment supporters, the 13 aren’t really being celebrated for who they are.

Most of those who crossed the aisle on the bill did so not out of some high-minded belief in bipartisanship and civic duty, but because they think their districts will benefit from some of the expensive projects being funded and that this will feather their own political nests. In that sense, the 13 were acting like throwbacks to a bygone era of congressional dealmaking. They traded favors regardless of how it affected the country in order to profit politically by playing the heroes bringing home the bacon to their districts.

That kind of logrolling and pork-barrel politics served the interests of those looking to use the current two-year window of complete Democratic control of Congress and the White House to transform the country and vastly increase entitlements and the power of the government. But the purpose of the media focus on the 13 is to use them as foils to bash the rest of the Republican Party.

Political Malpractice Enables Boondoggle

Not surprisingly, most Republicans and conservatives aren’t happy about those who chose not just to give Biden an undeserved boost but to undermine GOP efforts to persuade moderate Democrats to block Biden’s “Build Back Better” boondoggle. Democrats have sold that bill as “human infrastructure,” rather than what it really is: another wish list of liberal pet spending projects.

As conservatives have been warning the House and Senate GOP caucuses all year, it is political malpractice to vote for the just-enacted narrow infrastructure bill, which does largely fund projects that deal with roads, bridges, tunnels, and other essential projects, without assurance that the far larger spending bill is off the table.

Biden and the farthest-left wing of his party, which he has sided with throughout the long struggle to enact the bills, have made it clear that they aim to implement a radical agenda, not just to deal with the crumbling infrastructure that polls show nearly two-thirds of Americans think needs to be fixed. The 13 Republicans have now made it more rather than less likely that Democrats will get the other, larger bill that should be stopped at all costs.

Pushback Isn’t Violence

In keeping with the tone of coverage of Republicans since the January 6 Capitol riot, the conservative response to what they not unreasonably consider a betrayal has been portrayed as an orgy of rhetorical violence and threats rather than the usual pushback that all politicians get when they defy their own voters.

Articles in The New York Times and The Atlantic, replete with quotes from political scientists, anguished Democrats, and anti-Trump Republicans, were devoted to linking the criticism of the 13 to the supposed violent culture of the Republicans since Jan. 6. Yet left-wing violence committed under the Black Lives Matter banner during the hundreds of “mostly peaceful” riots that rocked American cities in the summer of 2020 is shoved down the Orwellian memory hole.

Many of those who called in to the offices of the members who voted with the Democrats were not polite and some said things that have no place in political discourse. Those who, for example, allegedly told Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Illinois — also one of the GOP’s pro-impeachment 10 — to slit his wrists and “rot in hell” were out of line. The same is true for the person who told Rep. Fred Upton that he hoped “everyone in your f-cking family dies.”

But the idea that angry Republicans are uniquely bad is ridiculous. The no-holds-barred harassment of Sens. Kristin Sinema, D-Ariz., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., proved this. Even worse, as Republicans have discovered in recent years, their left-wing critics believe there is no limit to the rhetorical bile they can sling, and their Democratic colleagues are actually cheering on these disgraceful efforts.

Media Increases Malicious Misrepresentation

GOP and conservative figures now must reckon on being attacked at dinner in public settings or to have their homes besieged by angry mobs shouting obscenities. Corporate media outlets like the Times not only pretend it is only Republicans who behave badly, they argue there is a connection between rude phone calls to congressional offices from angry rank-and-file Republicans and instances of GOP politicians who have been accused of domestic violence — and that this is proof that “menace enters the Republican mainstream.”

Yet somehow it never occurred to anyone on the right or left to link, for example, Rep. Maxine Waters’s call for violent confrontations with Republicans to Democrats who are accused of domestic violence, such as former congressman and current Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and a long list of other members of that party who have faced similar allegations.

This is similar to the attempt to claim that parents who come to school board meetings to protest critical race theory indoctrination and other woke policies are akin to “domestic terrorists” — and therefore deserving of being investigated by the Department of Justice at the behest of Attorney General Merrick Garland. January 6 is the gift that never stops giving for liberal polemicists. Anyone who pushes back against the liberal narrative on any issue is bound to be branded as a violent “insurrectionist.”

Corrupt Dealmaking

Forgotten in this dishonest effort to once again pretend that Biden’s opponents are members of a proto-authoritarian cult is the venal nature of the transaction on the infrastructure bill.

It’s no surprise that 6 of the 13 House Republicans who voted for the bill come from the New York/New Jersey area, which will greatly benefit from the spending. Some members have constituents that would, for example, like the federal government to pay for another train tunnel under the Hudson River to make the difficult rail commute between New York City and New Jersey easier.

But is the cost to taxpayers everywhere and the damage it will do to the economy as a result of the Biden left-wing laundry list really worth even the most needed tunnel, bridge, or road? Only in the mindset of traditional corrupt politics does that make sense.

But whatever infrastructure does get built in the coming years — and we all know that the cost will far exceed the $1 trillion now claimed — no one should be deluded about why the 13 Republicans are being celebrated as martyrs among the supposedly “violent” political culture on the right. “Good” Republicans are only good because they do the bidding of Democrats. Talk of a violent GOP political culture is just a way to keep talking about Jan. 6 and to delegitimize Republicans rather than to observe Biden’s failures.

Jonathan S. Tobin is a senior contributor to The Federalist, editor in chief of JNS.org, and a columnist for the New York Post. Follow him on Twitter at @jonathans_tobin.

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