GOP senator suddenly opposes infrastructure bill he helped draft

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Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) voted on July 28 to move the bill forward in the Senate.

Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) was a key member of the group that negotiated the $550 billion bipartisan infrastructure package currently before the Senate. But after weeks of supporting the proposal, he announced Sunday he will vote against it.

"I'm not yet comfortable with the current pay-fors in the legislation," he wrote in a statement announcing his intent to vote against the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, "nor am I comfortable with Speaker Pelosi's continued insistence on tying passage of this bill to the Democrats' $3.5 trillion reckless tax-and-spend budget proposal. Whether it is infrastructure or the Democrats' reckless budget, we can't afford to grow the national debt at this pace, particularly as our economy recovers from the pandemic."

A group of 21 senators from both parties negotiated a bipartisan infrastructure framework in June. The package will significantly increase federal investments in transportation, electrical, water system, and broadband infrastructure across the nation. Young signed a June 16 letter with his colleagues announcing the framework and implored President Joe Biden to "bless" the package — which he did.

"As the Crossroads of America, Indiana understands the need for federal investment in our crumbling infrastructure, especially with nearly 5,500 miles of Hoosier highways in poor condition," Young tweeted on July 28 after the Senate voted to take up consideration of the legislation. "I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues of both sides of the aisle as we sand and polish the final product."

In his statement on Sunday, Young cited concerns about a partial cost estimate by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which estimated that the bill could add $256 billion to the national debt over the next decade.

But Republican supporters of the package — including Young himself — have noted that that estimate did not take into account the bill's positive impact on economic growth or some of its savings.

"The Congressional Budget Office has long been hamstrung by rules that make them always wrong. They've never been exactly right," Young told the Hill on Aug. 2. "There's real-world score-keeping, as my constituents understand, like when you claw back unused COVID money or use other unspent government monies."

Young and other Republican lawmakers have used to the possibility of an increased deficit as an argument against the bill.

But like his GOP colleagues, Young ignored warnings from the CBO that the 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act — then-President Donald Trump's bill to cut taxes mostly for the very rich and corporations — could result in "an increase in the deficit of $1,455 billion," or more than five times as much as might result from the current package. They voted for the tax cuts.

Young, who is up for reelection in November, is still bragging about that vote on his campaign website.

Trump, who broke his repeated promises to rebuild the nation's infrastructure, has threatened Republicans who back the legislation that "lots of primaries will be coming your way" if it passes. Young has not indicated whether Trump's opposition was the reason for his flip-flop.

The Senate voted 68-29 to end debate on the package on Sunday night, suggesting that even without Young's support the legislation will likely have enough votes to pass.

Polls show the bipartisan plan is widely popular, even among pluralities of GOP voters. They also show broad backing for the Democrats' $3.5 trillion plan to invest in other key priorities.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.