Commentary

Pa.’s Fitzpatrick’s ‘yes’ on infrastructure is the least of the GOP’s problems | Monday Coffee

Republicans used to believe fixing roads and building bridges was a core function of government. Not any more

November 8, 2021 7:19 am

U.S. Rep Brian Fitzpatrick. (AFGE/Flickr)

Good Monday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

If you needed further confirmation of Washington’s current state of dysfunction, consider this: The 13 Republican lawmakers who voted with Democrats to send a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill to President Joe Biden’s desk late Friday night are finding themselves threatened with primaries and worse for their (alleged) singular act of heresy.

The bill, which would provide billions of dollars in new money to pay for road and bridge repairs nationwide, and here in Pennsylvania, as the Capital-Star reported on Saturday, passed on a vote of 228-206.

There’s zero debate that the GOP crossovers, U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-1st District, among them, were essential to getting the bill over the goal line. So the reaction among some Republicans, loath to give Biden a win on, well, anything, was predictably apoplectic. Even if a majority of Americans supported the bill.

“I can’t believe Republicans just gave the Democrats their socialism bill,” U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., fumed, according to the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake.

“Vote for this infrastructure bill and I will primary the hell out of you,” U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C.said just before the voteBlake also reported.

Let’s pause for a moment, shall we, to remember that the very socialism for which these Republican Quislings are being pilloried is exactly the kind of legislation that will underwrite something even the most red-blooded of conservatives once believed was a core function of government: Road and bridge construction and repairs to other essential physical infrastructure.

These Republicans also were doing something that the majority of Americans want them to do: Work with the other side to get something done.

In an August poll, 67 percent of Americans told the Bipartisan Policy Center that they’d prefer it if “their member of Congress work[ed] collaboratively to achieve solutions and pass legislation.”

For that act of public spiritedness, the GOP lawmakers are being excoriated by the likes of U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who warned last week, according to the Post, that any Republican who voted in favor would be ” “a traitor to our party, a traitor to their voters and a traitor to our donors.”

Pithy, sure. But one suspects, however, that the lady from Georgia got the running order wrong on who would be the more outraged.

(©soupstock – stock.adobe.com)

Still, any GOP firebrand who is surprised that Fitzpatrick, the last suburban Philly Republican left standing, crossed over to vote with the Dems hasn’t been paying attention.

Over the past few years, Fitzpatrick, a co-chair of the bipartisan House Problem-Solvers Caucus, has been out front on fighting the water contaminants collectively known as PFAS chemicals, which are a toxic threat to his voters.

And he’s voted with the Democrats on any number of key issues, including approving a $15/hour minimum wage, supporting the Paris Climate Accordspolice reform, a landmark labor bill, and a measure torpedoing ex-Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ student loan rule.

Now you could rightfully argue that all of the above were minimum risk, high-reward votes, since the chances of those bills getting a vote, let alone being passed, by the U.S. Senate were nonexistent.

And you’d also be right to point out that, when it counted, Fitzpatrick was there for the Trump White House, voting in favor of the ex-prez’s priorities 61 percent of the time, according to FiveThirtyEight.com. He was, for instance, a “no” on the second impeachment vote in January.

So, no, he’s no Solebury Socialist. Not by a long shot. But what he is, however, is a near-perfect fit for his Bucks County-based seat. And his triangulations have made him increasingly difficult to beat. In 2018, a good year for Democrats, he narrowly fended off a challenge from Scott Wallace, winning 51-48 percent.

But in 2020, as Biden carried the ‘burbs, Fitzpatrick handily dispatched Democrat Christina Finello 56-43 percent, buttressed, in no small part, by his canny votes with Democrats in the lead-up to the election.

U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Given the shifting demographics of the Philadelphia suburbs, and the steady shellacking the GOP has sustained there for the past couple of cycles, you’d think Republicans would be inclined to cut a guy like Fitzpatrick a bit of slack.

Sure, he was there with the Dems on infrastructure, but when it came time to condemn the former president for trying to topple the government, he meekly fell in line.

But such is the state of the current GOP that any departure from orthodoxy, even one that brings home $11.3 billion in highway aid and $1.6 billion worth of bridge replacement cash for the Keystone State’s kidney-dislodging highways is the ultimate act of betrayal.

Despite the bill’s passage, there’s still a better-than-even chance that Republicans will recapture the House in 2022.

Votes in favor of infrastructure were a no-brainer chance for Republicans to show they’re actually in favor of something, instead of the usual performative posturing on critical race theory, nonexistent voter fraud, and other culture war issues.

But the old GOP, the one that built the interstate highway system, left the American mainstream behind several exits ago.

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.
America turned its clocks back for another year over the weekend. And in this morning’s edition of the Numbers RacketCassie Miller takes stock of legislative efforts to rid the commonwealth of Daylight Saving Time.

Critical race theory isn’t taught in Pa. K-12 schools, but it permeated local school board races during last week’s municipal elections, Marley Parish reports.

Our partners at Pittsburgh City Paper, meanwhile, post-game Democratic gains in the Steel City and its suburbs during last Tuesday’s contests, which were generally bad news for Dems elsewhere.

On our Commentary Page this morning, opinion regular Mark O’Keefe wonders when lawmakers will get serious about passing lobbying reform and a gift ban. And opinion regular Dick Polman warns that winter is coming for Democrats.

En la Estrella-Capital: Avanzando hacia la normalidad, los expertos animan a las familias a programar vacunas pediátricas contra el COVID–19.  Y se le recomienda a los clientes de Wine & Spirits a ‘comprar temprano’ para la temporada navideña.

(Philadelphia Tribune photo)

Elsewhere.
Some Philadelphia school police officers tell the Inquirer that they don’t have the resources they need to protect themselves or students.

The pressure is already on Pittsburgh Mayor-elect Ed Gainey to attack the city’s biggest challenges, the Post-Gazette reports.

Heads-up commuters: Here’s a look at the Interstate 83 bridge closures near Harrisburg this week (via PennLive).

Republicans in Lancaster County were celebrating some big wins last week — but can they make it last? LancasterOnline takes up the question.

Lehigh Valley Democrats are facing a ‘headwind’ going into the 2022 midterms, the Morning Call reports.

USA Today’s Pennsylvania Capital Bureau brings you inside the state Treasury Department’s unclaimed property vault (paywall).

Doylestown hosted its first Diwali celebrationsWHYY-FM reports.

Some students in Armstrong County have been barred from games after hurling vulgar chants at a female ice hockey goalie, the Associated Press reports (via WITF-FM).

GoErie has a complete list of local winners and losers in the Nov. 2 municipal elections.

Roll Call runs down the latest on the effort to pass the budget reconciliation bill. 

Here’s your #Harrisburg Instagram of the Day:

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Arp Sonny (@sonnyarp5)


What Goes On
The House comes in at 12 p.m., the Senate comes in at 1 p.m. today.
8 a.m., B31 Main Capitol: House State Government Committee
9:30 a.m., G50 Irvis: House Environmental Resources & Energy Committee
10 a.m., 515 Irvis: House Education Committee, Subcommittee on Basic Education
10 a.m., Hearing Room 1, North Office Building: Senate Majority Policy Committee
11 a.m., 523 Irvis: House Commerce Committee=
12 p.m., 8E-B East Wing: Senate Education Committee
12:30 p.m.: Senate Health & Human Services Committee
Call of the Chair: Senate Education Committee
Call of the Chair: Senate Rules Committee
Call of the Chair: House Appropriations Committee

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition)
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Jason Silvis
5 p.m.: Reception for Rep. Doyle Heffley
5:30 p.m: Reception for Rep. Nancy Guenst
Ride the circuit, and give at the max, and you’re out a mildly ridiculous $4,000 today.

WolfWatch
Gov. Tom Wolf has no public schedule today.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out this morning to veteran Harrisburg PR guy, Pete Shelly, who celebrates today. Congratulations and enjoy the day, sir.

Heavy Rotation
Here’s one that popped up as I was pulling together this morning’s missive. From Split Enz, here’s ‘I Got You.’


Monday’s Gratuitous Soccer Link
As is its custom, the Guardian runs down the top 10 talking points from this weekend’s round of Premier League action — including Aston Villa manager Dean Smith getting the hook after his relegation-endangered squad’s fifth straight loss to Southampton.

And now you’re up to date.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

John L. Micek
John L. Micek

A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press.

MORE FROM AUTHOR