For years, numerous pundits have insisted that bipartisanship is effectively dead in Washington, with the parties too polarized — and the disincentives too steep — for most lawmakers to cross the aisle on big legislation.
But now, according to a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll, 6 in 10 Republican voters say they favor the new $1.2 trillion infrastructure package negotiated by a bipartisan group of senators and endorsed by the Biden White House.
It’s an auspicious sign, after years of lip service, that Congress might finally come together to pass the first major increase in public works spending since 2009.
The survey, which was conducted from June 22 to 24, found that a full 60 percent of self-identified Republicans approve of “the compromise infrastructure plan” recently put forward by “Republican and Democratic senators” that would “rebuild roads, bridges and other traditional infrastructure and cost $1.2 trillion” — while just 17 percent of self-identified Republicans oppose it.
At a time when trillions of dollars have already been spent on COVID relief, that level of rank-and-file Republican support for yet another gargantuan bill represents a remarkable shift in a party that has long fought federal spending, and it suggests that GOP lawmakers have permission from their voters to strike a deal with Democrats.
Overall, most Americans (51 percent) also favor the compromise infrastructure package, including 48 percent of Democrats and 54 percent of independents. Across the board, just 17 percent of each group say they are opposed.
The road ahead for infrastructure remains precarious. For one thing, President Biden did not explicitly endorse the bipartisan infrastructure deal until June 24, the last day the Yahoo News/YouGov poll was in the field — and though Biden has long expressed openness to compromise, putting his name on a specific package could trigger some polarization in response, making it less attractive to Republican voters but more so to Democrats.
Meanwhile, several centrist GOP senators underscored the delicate political dynamics at work when they threatened over the weekend to withdraw their support after Biden told reporters he would not sign the bipartisan deal unless Congress also passed a much larger bill that would raise taxes on corporations and wealthy Americans and pour trillions more into health care, child care, higher education access and climate change programs.
“If this is the only thing that comes to me, I’m not signing it,” Biden said Thursday.
After the president worked the phones in an attempt to salvage the negotiations — and after he issued a lengthy statement Saturday walking back his earlier caveat — Republicans appeared to get back on board, and the process of drafting a bill seems to be proceeding, at least for now.
Yet Congressional Democrats still hope to enact Biden’s larger “soft” infrastructure plan via the complicated process known as budget reconciliation, which allows Senate bills related to spending and revenue — such as Biden’s COVID relief package and President Trump’s 2017 tax cuts — to pass with 51 votes rather than the 60 votes typically required to overcome a filibuster threat.
On Sunday, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, the key Democratic swing vote and a lead negotiator of the bipartisan package, said he was “all for” passing Biden’s bigger “human infrastructure” bill as well — and for using the reconciliation process to circumvent Republican opposition if necessary.
“We’ve worked on the one track. We’re going to work on the second track,” Manchin told ABC. “There’s an awful lot of need.”
“Frankly, we really need to understand that this is our one big shot, not just in terms of family, child care, Medicare, but on climate change,” said leading progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Given the far more polarized response to Biden’s larger infrastructure plan, however, it’s possible that Democrats’ continuing “two-track” push will eventually imperil the fragile consensus that has formed around its smaller bipartisan counterpart.
According to the new Yahoo News/YouGov survey, nearly all Democrats (84 percent) favor Biden’s initial “$4 trillion” proposal to “rebuild roads, bridges and other traditional infrastructure with an eye toward fighting climate change while also supporting working families with childcare subsidies, national paid family leave and universal pre-K.” Just 6 percent are opposed.
But among independents, support for the original Biden plan is lower (46 percent) than for the compromise (54 percent), and opposition is much higher (32 percent vs. 17 percent). More than two-thirds of Republicans, meanwhile, oppose the larger Biden plan (67 percent).
One thing both Republicans (57 percent) and Democrats (74 percent) can agree on, though, is that infrastructure improvements should be subsidized by “closing loopholes that allow multinational corporations to avoid paying U.S. taxes,” which is part of both plans; a full 70 percent of Americans say the same. Also popular is Biden’s proposal to fund public-works investments by “raising taxes on corporations and Americans making more than $400,000,” which 59 percent of Americans — including 78 percent of Democrats and 60 percent of independents — favor.
The public is much less enthusiastic about the GOP’s preferred pay-fors: “requiring Americans who benefit from the proposals to pay ‘user fees’ such as gas taxes” (15 percent) and “repurposing money set aside for COVID-19 relief” (29 percent). In fact, only a minority of Republicans — just 13 percent and 49 percent, respectively — support these funding mechanisms.
The Yahoo News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,592 U.S. adults interviewed online from June 22 to 24, 2021. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Bureau of the Census, as well as 2020 presidential vote (or non-vote), and voter registration status. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S. adults. The margin of error is 2.7 percent.
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