GOP Finally Writes Some Infrastructure Talking Points

[ Posted Tuesday, April 13th, 2021 – 16:39 UTC ]

Ever since President Joe Biden rolled out the first part of his infrastructure plan, Republicans have been largely caught flat-footed. They just don't have much of an answer for why they don't support it. Which makes sense, because most of what is contained in the plan is actually widely supported by the public. So the one thing Republicans really haven't been able to do is to point to the plan and give any good examples as to why it would be such a terrible idea.

As I've noted previously, all they seem to have is: "It's too big!" and: "It raises taxes on the poor, poor multinational corporations!" and, even worse: "It's not infrastructure!" This last one is just laughable, because most of the good investments in the bill used to actually be supported by Republicans as infrastructure, so for them to define infrastructure now on the narrowest terms (literally: "only things your car can actually drive on") is pretty disingenuous of them.

But that was really all they had to work with. Since Biden's plan was announced, whenever Republicans were interviewed in the media, they fell back on these three rather weak talking points.

They're all are weak precisely because the general public does not really care about any of them. Too big? Not really a problem, as long as the bill contains tangible benefits to the widest possible amount of the population. Taxing corporations? That's actually quite popular indeed -- even among Republican voters. Hair-splitting legislative or parliamentary nonsense? Who cares what you call it or how you pass it, as long as it is worth doing! That is all largely what the public already thinks.

But this week a memo from the policy director of the Senate Republican Conference was leaked to the media. Politico helpfully posted the text of this memo (it's only three pages long), so we can all see what the next GOP attacks are going to look like. And while these talking points are a little more refined, they still don't have a whole lot to work with. Here is the real meat of the memo -- the first bullet point list, in full:

What this plan means for America
Eleven days ago, President Biden laid out a partisan plan to kill jobs and create slush funds on the taxpayer dime. Described as both a "jobs plan" and an "infrastructure" plan, the proposal undermines both.

Biden's Partisan, Job-Crushing Slush Fund spends just 5% of the total $2.7 trillion on roads and bridges.

The rest is:

  • A wish list of non-infrastructure spending on failed Obama policies;
  • A dog's breakfast of slush funds for Democrats' pet projects without any accountability or transparency;
  • Expensive green energy mandates on Americans;
  • A ban on the right to work;
  • And a flurry of tax hikes that will to [sic] drive companies out of the U.S. and give China and Russia a say in the United States' tax laws.

As a result, the plan will eliminate at least 1 million jobs.

Pretty scary stuff, eh? Well, not really. Most of it is actually pretty easy for Democrats to refute, because it is mostly (inaccurate) spin.

You'll notice that while it states things a little better, it really doesn't add much to the three talking points the Republicans have already been using. The only specifics it even talks about are: "expensive green energy mandates," and "a ban on the right to work." The rest of it doesn't really even refer to the plan in any meaningful way at all.

Instead, it tries to demonize the very idea of government spending money for the benefit of its citizens. Which is pretty standard stuff, right out of the old Republican playbook. It's all about reviving "failed Obama policies." The money is a "job-crushing slush fund," or perhaps "a dog's breakfast of slush funds." It's a "wish list" of "Democrats' pet projects" (without ever bothering to note what any of those pet projects might be). And, of course, it wouldn't be a GOP strategy document without playing the golden oldie: "a flurry of tax hikes," except this time somehow it will allow China and Russia to rewrite our tax laws.

The rest of the memo is a masterclass work of cherry-picking. It attempts to show that the public is heavily against the whole idea, businessmen are against it, and even lots of Democrats are already objecting to it.

Not once does it say: "expanding federal spending on healthcare to pay for home care services" or "replacing all the lead pipes still left in America," or "massively investing in rural broadband," or any of the other details of those "slush funds." Because those details actually have wide public support. So they must be demonized with scary generalities, because Republicans know they'll lose any arguments about each individual program. I mean, really, who in their right mind is against replacing lead pipes?

Even the final claim -- "the plan will eliminate at least one million jobs" -- is totally contradicted by one of their own cherry-picked examples. That estimate came from a manufacturers' group who commissioned their own study of just the first two years of the plan. But there are much more independent studies out there, which the document actually admits: "Therefore, the infrastructure proposal itself adds about 2.7 million jobs [over ten years] to the Moody's estimate."

There really are only two tangible targets Republicans have settled on: anything to do with green energy, and a pro-Labor plan contained within the Biden proposal. On the first, Republicans seem somehow trapped like a fly in amber. They really haven't learned yet just how popular moving our energy infrastructure into the future truly is becoming with the public at large. Especially -- what should be an ominous note for Republicans -- out in the previously-GOP-voting suburbs.

The second, the pro-Labor plan, is rather interesting to me, because I kind of see it in the same light as I saw the $15-an-hour minimum wage proposal in Biden's first big legislative victory -- as a sort of stalking horse or lightning rod designed to draw all the GOP's fire, that can get stripped from the bill later on. The Labor plan quite likely would not qualify for reconciliation, to put it bluntly. It's only tangentially about the federal budget. So the Senate parliamentarian is quite likely to disallow it, if the bill ever is submitted for budget reconciliation approval (which is likely the only way it will ever pass).

Biden will earn some political credit from the Unions for trying, but if it doesn't make it into the final bill, that is likely going to be acceptable enough (as long as enough of the rest of the bill passes). That's how I see it, at any rate -- we'll have to see what actually happens.

Republicans are really caught in a bind, here. They would really like to support at least some infrastructure spending (those bridges are falling apart in blue states and red, after all). But they want to do so magically -- with no deficit spending and with no tax hikes on anyone. That is not possible, in the real world, of course. This is why if the GOP ever actually presents Biden with any sort of compromise offer, it likely will not be paid for. Or maybe it'll actually have a giant tax cut built in, so Republicans can lie about how "it will pay for itself!" once again.

Which brings me to the final argument Democrats should deploy, because it is a powerful one (in Republican circles, at any rate): "Please remember that Donald Trump promised a lot of this stuff and was totally ready to spend trillions of dollars on it, but he never was able to deliver because the Republicans in Congress refused to get behind him."

Frame it as a failed Trump campaign promise, in other words, from the GOP's Dear Leader himself. Remember all that talk about making our airports the best in the world again? That's not "roads and bridges," is it? Trump was totally willing to go big on infrastructure. He wasn't afraid of big price tags. But he was too inept to make it happen. Democrats are now going to show Donald Trump and the rest of the Republican Party how to do so, period.

That's really the best way to counter all the new GOP talking points, in a nutshell.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


18 Comments on “GOP Finally Writes Some Infrastructure Talking Points”

  1. [1] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    (literally: "only things your car can actually drive on") is pretty disingenuous of them.

    Well, 'disingenuous is one word for it. Heh. Ahem. Obtuse is another.

  2. [2] 
    andygaus wrote:

    Surely Republicans can understand that investing in rural broadband is infrastructure. After all the internet is a series of tubes. (RIP, Sen. Ted Stevens.)

  3. [3] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    Jon Stewart went on Martha MacCallum's show today because he's advocating for medical benefits for veterans and first responders sickened by exposure to "burn pits".

    MacCallum basically asked him how that could happen with Biden spending big money on a pandemic that's over and things you can't drive on.

    Stewart was prepared and didn't bite. He told her that his thing was a drop in the bucket even compared to the Pentagon budget. Spending big to solve big problems was irrelevant to funding healthcare for people who've earned it.

  4. [4] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    If I were Derek Chauvin, I'd feel very uneasy tonight. His defense attorneys put that Barry Brodd guy on the stand today to say what Chauvin did was justified. He was very unlikable. I feel like he helped the prosecution. The defense team doesn't have much to work with, but they're just bad.

  5. [5] 
    John M from Ct. wrote:

    I agree that the Repubs are playing catch-up in their messaging against the infrastructure bill. All your points are dead-on.

    I did, however, admire the rhetorical flair of "A dog's breakfast of slush funds". That's good writing; too bad there aren't many facts to back it up.

  6. [6] 
    Mezzomamma wrote:

    EM 1--
    Disingenuous is a better fit than obtuse, because the memo writers know damn well that they are telling porkies. They hope enough voters are obtuse enough to swallow the lies.

  7. [7] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Well, they should start being called obtuse - disingenuous is altogether too kind. And, Republicans don't have to hope that enough voters are obtuse enough. Ahem.

  8. [8] 
    John M wrote:

    That would be a great way to sell it. Biden is only fulfilling one of Trump's own campaign promises. I would love to see how Republican legislators respond to that!!!

  9. [9] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    agree with mezzo, disingenuous is a better fit. obtuse would mean they actually ARE that dumb, which i don't think is the case.

    Nothing stops! Nothing! Or you will do the hardest time there is. No more protection from the guards. I'll pull you out of that one-bunk Hilton and cast you down with the sodomites. You'll think you got ****ed by a train. And the library? Gone! Sealed off brick by brick! We'll have us a little book-barbecue in the yard. They'll see the flames for miles. We'll dance around it like wild Injuns. Do you understand me? Are you catching my drift? Or am I being obtuse?
    ~warden norton, shawshank redemption

  10. [10] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


  11. [11] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Here was the point I was trying to make but sadly failed at the attempt, as per usual ...

    Call them something that actually stings without being profane.

    Do ya catch my drift or ...

  12. [12] 
    Mezzomamma wrote:

    Bernie Madoff has died in prison.

  13. [13] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Good riddance.

  14. [14] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    And, back to my point, there has to be a better term for them than the mildly offensive 'disingenuous' ...

  15. [15] 
    nypoet22 wrote: says:

    crooked, dishonest, deceitful, duplicitous, underhanded, insidious, mendacious, shifty, guileful, oblique...

  16. [16] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    for me, mendacious wins the prize.

    hey CW, care to weigh in?

  17. [17] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    you're far too kind, Joshua

  18. [18] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I still like 'obtuse' ... when Republicans make obtuse arguments it makes them look obtuse. And, who knows, maybe they really don't understand what they're talking about.

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