OPINION: The needed help Sens. Bill Hagerty and Marsah Blackburn would take from us

·4 min read

Aug. 10—Just make note of it: Tennessee Sens. Bill Hagerty and Marsha Blackburn voted against the bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure bill to rebuild the nation's deteriorating roads, bridges and water pipes, as well as fund new climate resilience and broadband initiatives. Likewise, Alabama Sens. Tommy Tuberville and Richard Shelby said no.

The four are all Republicans, sure. But they bucked their own leader — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who voted with 18 other Republicans and 50 Democrats and Independents to move our Congress and country off of "stuck." Georgians can thank their lucky stars that they elected two new Democratic senators, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, who also voted yes and helped move the deal into a win column with a 69-30 vote.

Let's cut to the chase and outline just a little of what Hagerty and Blackburn would have nixed for Tennessee.

— Tennessee would expect to receive $5.8 billion for highway fixes and $302 million for bridge replacement and repairs — needed help in our state where there are 881 bridges and more than 270 miles of highway in "poor" condition. Did you know that since 2011, commute times here have increased by 7.7% and on average, each driver pays $209 per year in costs due to driving on roads in need of repair? We also can compete for more dollars from the $12.5 billion Bridge Investments Program and the nearly $16 billion in the bill dedicated for major projects to deliver economic benefits to communities.

— Tennessee would expect to receive $633 million over five years to improve public transportation, $88 million to expand an electric vehicle charging network and $100 million to help provide better or nonexistent broadband.

But Hagerty and Blackburn, who rode the former guy's coattails to their new offices, were more worried about their future elections than about us and our state. They were afraid of getting primaried by another nobody who that aforementioned former guy promised to back in the next Senate primaries if any Republicans helped give President Joe Biden a win on infrastructure — the very thing the former guy promised every other week but could never deliver.

What was Hagerty's and Blackburn's excuse for saying no to money to rebuild roads and bridges, shore up coastlines against climate change, protect public utility systems from cyberttacks, replace most lead drinking water pipes in America and modernize the electric grid, public transit, airports and freight rail?

We'll paraphrase it to cut down on the mistruths: It's not paid for, and it's a gateway to another $3.5 trillion infrastructure bill that our less-than-stellar GOP lawmakers falsely label as "socialist."

Actually, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office calculated that a fraction of the new spending — $256 billion — would be financed by adding to the nation's debt between 2021 to 2031. Sens. Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, and Kyrsten Sinema, Democrat of Arizona, who were very instrumental in crafting the bipartisan deal, have insisted that there are actually $519 billion in offsets.

As for "socialist?" We're talking building and rebuilding systems for child care and elder care. If child care and elder care is socialist, bring it on.

So what happens next? Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he will push forward a $3.5 trillion budget resolution bill with reconciliation, which would require a simple majority vote in the Senate. It would build on child care, elder care and other programs. That debate is expected to extend into the fall.

And Monday's deal still has to get another sign-off from the House, where some progressive Democrats haven't been shy to criticize the Senate's $1 trillion bipartisan package, scaled down from Biden's original $2.3 trillion proposal.

Sure, there will still be a lot of posturing in both chambers. But we predict that's all — just posturing. Those Republicans voting with McConnell and Portman to approve the bill were: Roy Blunt of Missouri, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, Michael D. Crapo of Idaho, Deb Fischer of Nebraska, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, John Hoeven of North Dakota, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, James Risch of Idaho, Mitt Romney of Utah, Dan Sullivan of Alaska, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Roger Wicker of Mississippi.

Most Republican senators — unlike Hagerty, Blackburn, Tuberville and Shelby — don't want to be seen by any of us American voters as the Republicans who stole our road money. Most Republican lawmakers know that most Americans are incredibly alarmed by the rising disasters of climate change and the again-surging pandemic and they're tired of partisan politics getting in the way of common-sense helps.

Most Republican lawmakers — not the loudest squawkers, but the most thoughtful — know they don't want you to remember them as the ones saying no, no, no to everyday necessities, support, protections and fixes.