Just two Republicans voted for the INVEST in America Act on Thursday.
The House of Representatives passed a $715 billion surface transportation and water infrastructure package on Thursday, 221-201. But though the bill contained nearly $1.7 billion for projects specifically requested by House Republicans, just two of them backed the legislation.
The Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation (INVEST) in America bill, authored by House Transportation and Infrastructure Chair Peter DeFazio, aims to expand funding for roads, bridges, transit, rail, and wastewater and drinking water infrastructure.
His committee invited members of both parties to suggest specific priority projects in their districts to include in the legislation. More than 300 representatives requested and received these "earmarked" funds in the final legislation — including 105 Republicans.
The bill contained 403 individual projects — totaling $1,696,830,689 — requested by House Republicans. This amounted to nearly a third of the 1,473 specific projects and the $5,661,582,573 approved for them.
But of those GOP lawmakers, only Reps. Chris Smith of New Jersey and Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania actually voted for the bill that included their own requested projects. The other 103 members all voted against the money they sought for their own constituents.
Rep. Stephanie Bice (R-OK) asked for and received $10 million for bridges in Edmond, Oklahoma, and another $10 million for an interstate highway interchange in Oklahoma City. She called both projects "an appropriate use of taxpayer dollars."
But on Thursday, Bice bragged that she voted against these and the other projects in the bill, mocking it as the "Green New Deal and Inflation Transportation Act."
Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK), who also received multiple earmarks in the legislation, totaling about $15 million, told Punchbowl News on Thursday that he had no problem voting against the bill anyway because Congress is no longer principled.
"This place has kind of devolved over the last 20 years. And the normal standards since I arrived in 1994 don’t apply anymore," he explained. "I would say we’re in a legislative world where there are no norms anymore. You play it by ear, we have to sort our way though."
Last month, DeFazio (D-OR) noted how long it took the committee to vet the thousands of earmark requests, but he said it was "absolutely worth it to give elected representatives the chance to directly advocate on behalf of their districts in our surface transportation bill. Together, we can help give viable projects the funding they need to get across the finish line, one of many steps we can take to get moving on the backlog of badly-needed infrastructure projects located in every congressional district across the country.”
The bill now moves on to the Senate, where a bipartisan group has proposed a different infrastructure package.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.