OPINION

Brazile: Democrats need to unify on infrastructure to fight GOP obstruction

Most Republicans in Congress are determined to put former President Trump first and America last. Democrats should put America first: Compromise

Donna Brazile
Opinion columnist

Democrats paralyzed by internal feuding should unite this week to pass both the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill and a scaled-down version of President Biden’s $3.5 trillion plan to benefit parents, children, seniors and our environment. 

Congressional Republicans, who are now a cult of personality worshiping former President Donald Trump, have made it clear that they will do everything possible to kill both these extraordinarily beneficial bills.

By sabotaging our nation and harming the American people, GOP lawmakers believe they will make it easier for Trump to declare President Joe Biden a failure and run against him in 2024. Most are determined to put Trump first and America last because they are terrified of angering the grievance-filled defeated president, lest he oppose them in primaries.

Infrastructure bill stalled in the Senate

The infrastructure bill, which was passed by the Senate in August, would provide badly needed investments in roads, bridges, mass transit, railroads, ports, airports, electric vehicle charging stations, electric school buses, water treatment and storage, pipeline safety, replacement of lead pipes, pollution cleanup, the electric power grid and more – and, according to Moody's Analytics, create more than 600,000 jobs.

Unfortunately, progressive Democrats in the House are holding the Senate bill hostage, demanding unanimous agreement first by all Democrats in the Senate and nearly all in the House to approve spending $3.5 trillion over 10 years on a long list of outstanding programs. 

Democrats and Republicans in Congress are debating infrastructure bills and the debt ceiling at the Capitol on Sept. 28, 2021.

The larger bill includes: guaranteed paid family, parental and personal sick leave; the extension of expanded earned income tax credits, and child and dependent care tax credits; free preschool; federally subsidized child care up to age 5; an expanded child nutrition program; free community college; larger Pell Grants to aid low-income college students; an expansion of Medicare to cover dental, vision and hearing care; actions to lower prescription drug prices; and programs to combat climate change.

Democrats want to pay for their new spending by raising taxes on corporations and the rich. They also want to close loopholes that enable some of the super rich and giant companies to pay little or no taxes. 

As someone who supports both these bills, I urge House Democrats to give final legislative passage to the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill when it comes up for a vote this week and send it to Biden to sign into law. Then they should pass a smaller compromise version of the $3.5 trillion bill that can gain the support of moderate Democrats in the House and Senate who don’t want to spend as much.

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Democrats can pass the bill in Senate under the reconciliation process, which means they just need a simple majority of 51 votes, rather than the 60-vote supermajority needed to stop a Republican filibuster. If all 50 Democrats support a bill, Vice President Kamala Harris will provide the 51st and tie-breaking vote. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., says she's  confident the Democratic caucus will stay together to vote on the infrastructure and budget reconciliation bills.

My fellow Democrats, compromise and get something done for the American people. Take the advice of The Rolling Stones, who sang in 1969: “You can’t always get what you want/But if you try sometimes/Well you just might find/You get what you need.”

A time for compromise, growth

If Democrats pick up congressional seats in the 2022 elections, we can increase our investment in the valuable programs that must be cut now to reach a compromise.

But if Democrats deadlock, it makes it more likely we will lose our majorities in the House, the Senate or both next year. We can then expect Republicans to cut spending on programs that help average Americans and those in the greatest need, and slash taxes for the rich and corporations. They rewarded their rich donors with tax cuts that sharply increased the deficit in 2017, and they will do it again if they have the chance.

Republicans are also showing their true colors – playing politics to help Trump no matter how much harm they inflict on the American people – with their opposition to raising the federal debt ceiling and to funding government past the end of the fiscal year Thursday. They raised the debt ceiling many times in the past when Republicans were in the White House, but now they are determined to throw a hand grenade into our economy just to make Biden and Democrats look bad. 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., made it clear in May that he had no interest in compromising with Democrats in Congress or with Biden when he said: “100% of our focus is on stopping this new administration.” McConnell made a similar comment in 2010, saying: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” 

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There’s an old saying that “politics is the art of compromise.” Today, too many elected officials in both parties reject compromise and boast incessantly about how hard they will fight their political opponents, as if they were prizefighters rather than lawmakers.

Fighting without compromise may make lawmakers feel good and please their bases. But the job of lawmakers is to make laws to improve the lives of the American people, not to fight endlessly without getting anything done. Democrats must unite and not snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Donna Brazile (@donnabrazile) is a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors, an ABC News contributor, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and the King Endowed Chair in Public Policy at Howard University. She previously served as interim chair of the Democratic National Committee and of the DNC’s Voting Rights Institute, and managed the Gore campaign in 2000.