The Iron Range is set to be one of the big winners from the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill signed into law by President Biden on Monday. Besides the hundreds of millions of dollars that will be directed to our region over the next several years for expanding broadband and fixing roads and bridges, the region will benefit by having a more stable taconite industry, at least for the foreseeable future.
All that infrastructure spending will require steel, and lots of it. And the bill includes one of the toughest Buy American provisions ever enacted, which will ensure that all those federally-funded projects use domestically-manufactured steel. That means the Iron Range is going to be busy.
So, why did Eighth District Congressman Pete Stauber, who never misses an opportunity to, at least rhetorically, fist-pump the taconite industry, vote no? That’s an easy one. Stauber, as he has done before, put his fawning devotion to Donald Trump ahead of the interests of his district.
The benefits of the bill that Stauber opposed are obvious to everyone, even to a majority of Republicans according to recent polling. That’s why close to half of Republican senators voted in favor of the bill and 13 Republicans even backed it in the more partisan House.
That GOP support came from members of the House who can still think for themselves, and who opted to put the interests of their districts ahead of Trump’s ego.
Stauber’s excuse, which came in a press statement following his “no” vote, was an insult to residents of the Eighth District. “Regrettably, Nancy Pelosi and other Democrat leaders made it abundantly clear that the $1.2 trillion Senate infrastructure bill is inextricably linked to their bloated multi-trillion-dollar tax-and-spend package,” claimed Stauber. “Make no mistake: a vote for this ‘infrastructure’ package is a vote for the reckless multi-trillion-dollar tax-and-spend spree. That’s why I voted no.”
As with much of what Congressman Stauber puts out to the public these days, this statement was utter nonsense.
First, the infrastructure bill that Biden signed into law was for physical infrastructure. Roads, bridges, seaports, airports, sewer and water, and broadband, etc. It was, in other words, the exact investments that candidate Donald Trump promised to make in 2016.
Yes, House Democrats hope to reach agreement with the U.S. Senate later this year on an entirely different spending bill designed to reduce healthcare premiums and childcare costs for millions of American families as well as extend the childcare tax credit, expand Medicare to provide benefits for hearing services, provide major investments in energy efficiency and renewables, affordable housing, and elder care.
Republicans have made it clear they don’t support these provisions and that’s why Democrats expect to receive no GOP votes in support of these family-friendly investments.
The key there is that a vote for the physical infrastructure bill, i.e. the bill that’s expected to bring more than 2,000 new jobs to the Eighth District and keep the Iron Range humming, is not in any way connected to a vote on the other legislation. If Stauber doesn’t like the “tax-and-spend” bill as he calls it, he doesn’t have to vote for it. That’s how things work in Congress. You vote for bills you support and vote against those you don’t like.
Rep. Stauber and his press staff who put out this ridiculous statement knew that his statement was illogical and misleading, but they plainly assumed that the voters back home weren’t smart enough to realize that.
To understand Stauber’s real motivation, just consider the antics of his puppet master, Donald Trump, in the wake of the infrastructure vote. While Trump campaigned in full support of more infrastructure spending when he was a candidate, he’s threatened retaliation against Republicans who backed Biden’s bill, which accomplishes what Trump couldn’t.
Biden’s success exposes what virtually every informed presidential observer already knows: Trump was the most inept president this country has suffered under in more than a century. For Stauber, when faced with a choice between representing the interests of his constituents back home in the Eighth or keeping a loudmouthed bully happy, Stauber sided with the bully.
Let’s be clear: A vote for this infrastructure bill was likely the single most beneficial vote that Stauber could have taken for the Eighth District, probably in his entire career. And he threw it all away for craven politics. Says a lot.
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