President Biden’s $2 trillion dollar “infrastructure” plan has been roundly criticized by Republicans as a boondoggle intended to cram through Democrat wish lists on green energy, health care, broadband, and more. Namely, the plan includes Green New Deal-like policies to shift America to net zero carbon emissions through massive subsidies for wind and solar and battery storage, while largely leaving out other promising renewable energy sources like hydrogen. Critics are right that the plan would dramatically change America’s economy, wipe out the gains from the Trump administration’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, and destroy the natural gas and fossil fuel industry, leaving our electric grid vulnerable and destroying good-paying jobs. The Biden plan also conveniently leaves out any realistic or meaningful discussion about how this package of trillions in Green New Deal spending would be paid for beyond raising the corporate tax rate to a level that would represent the highest of any country in the G7.
Biden’s plan also does little to address actual infrastructure concerns like America’s crumbling roads, bridges, highways and railways. Less than 5% of all spending in the bill addresses traditional infrastructure—instead committing billions in taxpayer dollars on an aggressive climate agenda masquerading as an infrastructure bill. Contrary to Biden’s previous campaign promises not to eliminate the natural gas industry and to embrace innovative technologies to reduce emissions, the Biden plan instead doles out hundreds of billions for a “climate innovation fund,” $174 billion in spending on electric vehicles (that consumers aren’t interested in), $40 billion toward “energy efficient” homes, and even $10 billion for a civilian “climate corps.”
While it is important to shed light on the true nature of this misnamed Biden infrastructure boondoggle and costly Democratic slush fund, Republicans should take care not to repeat mistakes of the past when it comes to slamming Democrat energy and environmental proposals without offering viable alternatives to the American public. As we continue to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, the fact is that many Americans are becoming more and more desensitized to the trillions of dollars in spending coming out of Washington under the guise of COVID relief. During the debate around Obamacare more than a decade ago, Republicans repeatedly failed to coalesce around an alternative health care plan, leaving the party flailing to defend the status quo and costing them politically as Democrats rammed through sweeping changes to our health care system.
Indeed, during President Trump’s administration, the President repeatedly argued for an infrastructure package with a price tag that approached around a trillion dollars, (albeit for legitimate infrastructure needs like roads, bridges, and airport construction and with private sector partnerships to help offset costs.) It is not enough to merely argue against government spending anymore, since both parties have long since abandoned principles of restraint regarding the budget. Democrats have the majorities in both houses to pass this bill into law and Republicans must negotiate in good faith to try to curb some of the more extreme aspects of the bill and take credit for some of the better aspects, or coalesce behind an alternative proposal as a caucus.
To be fair, some Republicans in the Senate are working on a smaller infrastructure proposal, and leaders like Sam Graves and others have outlined clear infrastructure principles and introduced the BUILDER Act, which would modernize permitting processes and streamline projects. However, these bills have not been met with widespread support by a majority of the caucus, nor have Republicans coalesced around a serious messaging plan to raise awareness of them. Republicans need to unify around a single set of principles and a single proposal to present the best case to the American people that we offer more than just criticism, or we risk suffering the political fallout in the years to come.
Samantha Dravis is a Visiting Fellow at Independent Women’s Forum. She served as Associate Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under President Trump.