Former President Donald Trump released a statement on Saturday threatening to withhold support from any Republican who backs the $ 1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. Hours later, 18 Republican senators voted to move the infrastructure package forward anyway.
It was just a procedural vote (the Senate hadn't voted on the passing of the bill by Monday afternoon). But the chain of events shows that the former president's threats, at least in terms of infrastructure, no longer carry the weight they once had.
This was featured on Fox News Sunday morning when one of the Republican senators who voted to promote the infrastructure bill, North Dakota’s Kevin Cramer, walked on Maria Bartiromo's show and was scourged for failing to stick to the line.
"Are you betraying the republican base?" Bartiromo asked Cramer to open the interview. He responded by arguing that the bill addressed important national priorities.
“It's not just about infrastructure – it's especially roads and bridges. In addition, there are ports, waterways, railways, airports and broadband, all of which are critical to the movement of goods and services across the country and around the world, ”Cramer said. “We couldn't bring soybeans from North Dakota to South Korea if we didn't have ports in the Pacific Northwest. And we certainly couldn't get pasta in New York without trucks bringing the wheat from the field to the bins and then to the mills and factories. "
Bartiromo later urged Cramer to specifically address Trump's threat. Trump said Saturday that "Joe Biden's Infrastructure Bill will be used against the Republican Party in the upcoming 2022 and 2024 elections. It will be very difficult for me to support someone foolish enough to vote for this deal."
Cramer, who is standing for re-election in 2024, did not give in.
"He didn't give a reason why it's a bad deal other than that it's Joe Bidens (Bill) … I think he's wrong on that," he said.
Republican Senator Kevin Cramer on Trump's statement against the bipartisan infrastructure bill: "He gave no reason why it was a bad deal other than Joe Bidens (law) … I think he's wrong on that issue." Pic. twitter.com/DTHBNn7dbL
– Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) August 8, 2021
It should be noted that Cramer is known as a passionate Trumpist rather than the Mitt Romney-type moderator who occasionally breaks up with the former president. He ran for the most MAGA-friendly candidate in the North Dakota race in 2018 and was among the top 10 Republican Senators for trustworthy voting with Trump when he was elected.
In February, Cramer voted against Trump's conviction for inciting the 6th insurrection in a few years? "
Senator Kevin Cramer (R-ND) speaks to reporters and mockingly says, "Why are Democrats so concerned that (Trump) will be on the ballot in 4 years?"
(Maybe it's because he tried to overthrow democracy?) Pic.twitter.com/BXD9HIgiY9
– Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) February 10, 2021
But Cramer's thinking about Trump now seems to have evolved: saturating his party's leader is no longer the only political consideration worth weighing. And he is far from alone.
Other Trumpy Republicans who have voted to wrap up the infrastructure bill debate – a necessary step towards its expected passage this week – include Lindsey Graham (SC), Chuck Grassley (IA) and John Hoeven (ND). Meanwhile, 29 Republicans voted against approving the bill.
Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, who has become a frequent target of Trump's wrath after McConnell spoke out against his efforts to reverse his election defeat to Biden, voted in favor of the infrastructure bill. Last week, McConnell described the bill, which provides for $ 550 billion in new spending over five years, as "an excellent opportunity" for "a bipartisan success story for the country."
Not surprisingly, Trump is not interested in "bipartisan success stories". The irony is that Trump, as President, could theoretically have been the one who could have written such a success story: During his tenure, there were so many empty promises of infrastructure laws that the “Infrastructure Week” became the punchline. But now that he's out of office, Trump is urging Republicans to hold back even longer.
“Whether the House of Representatives or the Senate, think twice before agreeing to this terrible deal. Republicans should wait until after midterms to gain all the strength they need to do a good deal, ”Trump said in his statement on Saturday, without specifying what“ a good deal ”would be for him.
The Republicans in the Senate have decided that bipartisanism is in their best interests for once
While infrastructure is proving to be an area where Senate Republicans are ready to break with Trump, it's too early to say if this is the start of a trend.
For one thing, some of the 18 Republican senators who voted to close the infrastructure bill debate might end up voting against it anyway. But ultimately, the votes are expected to be there to pass the bill, which means that in this case, Republican senators seem to have calculated that it is worth giving Biden a major to do and show for their constituents that the Senate is not completely broken bipartisan victory.
However, that doesn't mean things will go smoothly for Biden's legislative agenda. After all, McConnell said in May that "my focus is one hundred percent on standing up to this government," and since Republicans are rooted in opposition to any form of voting legislation, it is unclear which, if any, major policies are ripe for one bipartisan agreement could be according to infrastructure.
It's also easier for Senate Republicans to move away from Trump than it is for members of the GOP House of Representatives. The New York Times' Luke Broadwater and Emily Cochrane describe the infrastructure bill as "one of the most significant moves so far by Republicans elected to defy Mr. Trump," note that Republicans like Cramer, who won't get re-elected in 2022, don't quite feel the heat . But for members of the House of Representatives, a bitter statement from the former president could pose serious problems for their political future.
The vast majority of Republicans oppose the law. House Republicans are as closely tied to Mr Trump as ever, and many continue to support his election lies and conspiracy theories about the January 6 attack on the Capitol. And with the upcoming 2022 elections, his party's members will have less and less leeway to move away from a figure that their base still worships.
But whether it's a divergence or the beginning of an era when Republicans are less afraid of attracting Trump's wrath, the fact remains that for the first time in many years, a significant number of GOP-elected officials for an important piece of legislation that will offer their voters something beyond tax cuts that disproportionately target the rich. This is something to celebrate.