Earlier this week, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) told a Kentucky audience that, in his view, “everybody believes” that the country should be doing more to upgrade its aging, crumbling infrastructure. The problem, he said, is that “nobody wants to pay for it”:
“Everybody believes we have infrastructure deficiencies and more needs to be spent to repair, replace and in some cases build new infrastructure,” Boehner said in a speech. “The problem is nobody wants to pay for it.”
Boehner did not specifically mention the region’s bridge problems, but spoke broadly about transportation needs in his speech as part of the McConnell Center’s fall lecture series at the university.
However, it’s simply not true that “nobody” has tried to craft a bill that both invests in infrastructure and is paid for. President Obama’s American Jobs Act included money for infrastructure and was paid for by higher income taxes for the wealthiest Americans. Senate Democrats, meanwhile, plan to hold a vote this week on a bill that combines $50 billion in direct infrastructure spending with another $10 billion to start a national infrastructure bank.
The Senate Democrats’ bill is paid for by a surtax on the very wealthiest Americans that, as Citizens for Tax Justice has found, will affect no more than 0.1 percent of the residents of most states. Far from jumping on board with this plan, Senate Republicans are gearing up to derail it:
A senior Senate Democratic aide predicted Tuesday that not a single Republican would vote for the latest jobs package of $50 billion in infrastructure spending combined with a $10 billion national infrastructure bank.
Senate Democratic leaders hope to vote Thursday on the jobs bill, but they expect the outcome to follow the same lines as the previous two jobs measures Republicans voted unanimously to block.
As the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent noted yesterday, “a number of GOP Senators in the past have explicitly endorsed infrastructure spending — in different contexts — as a good way to spur economic growth or maintain economic competitiveness.” For instance, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has said that “if you’re a Republican and you want to create jobs, then you need to invest in infrastructure that will allow us to create jobs.” But now that Obama is proposing just that, the GOP is lining up against him.
Boehner is trying to deflect attention from the GOP’s constant obstruction of infrastructure bills. But tomorrow will provide the perfect test case as to whether “everybody” agrees that infrastructure is a priority, or whether the GOP thinks it’s more important to protect super-low tax rates for the very wealthy.