Former President Donald Trump released a declaration on Saturday threatening to deny his endorsement of any Republican who supports the $ 1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill. Hours later, 18 Republican senators voted to promote the infrastructure package anyway.
It was just a procedural vote (the Senate has yet to vote on the bill’s approval, as of Monday afternoon). But the chain of events illustrates that at least when it comes to infrastructure, the former president’s threats don’t seem to carry the weight they once did.
This was evident on Fox News Sunday morning when one of the Republican senators who voted in favor of the infrastructure bill, Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, attended the Maria Bartiromo show and was punished for not following the line.
“Are you betraying the Republican base?” Bartiromo asked Cramer to open the interview. He responded by arguing that the bill addresses important national priorities.
“It is not just infrastructure, it is specifically roads and bridges. On top of that, there are ports, waterways, railroads, airports, 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 get 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 taking the wheat from the fields to the containers and then to the mills and factories. “
Bartiromo then pressured Cramer to specifically address the Trump threat. Trump said Saturday that “Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill will be used against the Republican Party in the next elections in 2022 and 2024. It will be very difficult for me to endorse someone fool enough to vote for this deal.” .
But Cramer, who will run for reelection in 2024, did not back down.
“He didn’t give a News Block why it’s a bad deal, other than Joe Biden’s. [bill] … I think he is wrong on this issue, ”he said.
Republican Senator Kevin Cramer on Trump’s statement opposing the bipartisan infrastructure bill: “He didn’t give a News Block why it’s bad business, other than Joe Biden’s. [bill] … I think you are wrong on this issue. ” pic.twitter.com/DTHBNn7dbL
– Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) August 8, 2021
It should be noted that Cramer is known as a fierce Trump player, not a Mitt Romney-style moderate who occasionally breaks up with the former president. He campaigned in 2018 as the friendliest candidate with MAGA in the North Dakota race, and after being elected he ended up being one of the top 10 Republican senators in terms of reliably voting in tune with Trump.
In February, Cramer voted against Trump’s conviction for inciting the January 6 insurrection after his second impeachment trial, then mocked Democrats for impeaching the former president in the first place, saying, “Why are the Democrats are so worried about having [Trump] on the ballot in 4 years? ”
Senator Kevin Cramer (R-ND) speaks to reporters and mockingly says, “why are the Democrats so concerned about having [Trump] 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: satiating his party leader is no longer the only political consideration worth weighing. And he is far from alone.
Other Trumpy Republicans who voted to close the debate on the infrastructure bill, a necessary step toward its expected passage this week, include Lindsey Graham (SC), Chuck Grassley (IA) and John Hoeven (ND). Meanwhile, 29 Republicans voted against allowing the bill to pass.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has become a frequent target of Trump’s ire after McConnell spoke out against his efforts to reverse his electoral loss to Biden, voted in favor of the passage of the infrastructure bill. Last week, McConnell characterized the legislation, which includes $ 550 billion in new spending over five years, as “an excellent opportunity” for “a bipartisan success story for the country.”
But Trump, unsurprisingly, is not interested in “bipartisan success stories.” The irony is that when Trump was president, he could theoretically have been the one who had such a successful story: During his administration, empty promises of infrastructure legislation were exchanged so frequently that “infrastructure week” became an auction. But now that he’s out of office, Trump is urging Republicans to wait even longer.
“Whether in the House or the Senate, think twice before passing this terrible deal. Republicans should wait until after the midterm elections, when they will get all the strength they will need to make a good deal, “Trump said in his statement Saturday, without specifying what” good business “would be for him.
Senate Republicans decided bipartisanship was in their interest this time
While infrastructure is proving to be an area where Senate Republicans are keen to break away from Trump, it is too early to tell if this is the start of a trend.
For one thing, some of the 18 Republican senators who voted to close the debate on the infrastructure bill may still end up voting against it. But ultimately, the votes are expected to be there for the bill to pass, which means that in this case, Republican senators seem to have figured out what to do for their constituents and show that the Senate is not fully broken is worth the commitment to give Biden an important role. bipartisan victory.
However, that doesn’t mean Biden’s legislative agenda is moving forward smoothly. McConnell, after all, saying in May that “one hundred percent of my focus is standing up to this administration,” and with Republicans entrenched against any kind of legislation on the right to vote, it is unclear what important policy areas, if any, , they could be ripe for a bipartisan deal after infrastructure.
It is also easier for Senate Republicans to walk away from Trump than it is for members of the GOP House of Representatives. While characterizing the infrastructure bill as “one of the most important steps to date by Republicans-elect to challenge Mr. Trump,” Luke Broadwater and Emily Cochrane of the New York Times qualification that Republicans like Cramer, who are not ready for reelection in 2022, are not feeling the pressure. But for members of the House, a bitter statement from the former president could spell serious trouble for their political future.
The vast majority of Republicans oppose the legislation. House Republicans are as closely tied to Trump as ever, with many continuing to support his electoral lies and conspiracy theories about the January 6 attack on the Capitol. And with the 2022 elections approaching, his party members will have less and less leeway to walk away from a figure his base still reveres.
But whether it is an aberration or the beginning of an era in which Republicans are less afraid of incurring the wrath of Trump, the fact is that, for the first time in many years, a significant number of Republican elected officials they are voting in favor of an important part of the policy. legislation that will provide its constituents with more than tax cuts disproportionately targeted at the wealthy. That is something to celebrate.