On Wednesday a bipartisan group of U.S. senators offered a $900 billion proposal to fund a massive infrastructure spending plan without tax hikes. Among the names were many of the “usual suspects” of across-the-aisle politics like Utah’s Mitt Romney, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and New Hampshire’s senior senator Jeanne Shaheen.
Notably absent from the list? First-term incumbent Maggie Hassan.
“Notably” because Hassan has spent months making the case she’s dedicated to “bipartisanship.” Her office has sent out six press releases this month alone touting her alleged “bipartisanship.” In a one-month period this spring, Hassan sent out 24 press releases featuring the word “bipartisanship” — four of them in three days.
But on this infrastructure spending deal, which could have real-world consequences in Congress, Hassan is a no-show. Contacted by NHJournal about whether Hassan would support the Shaheen-backed compromise, Hassan’s office had no comment.
According to reports, Romney said Wednesday the senators had come to “tentative conclusions” about the infrastructure plan, though he didn’t offer any details. However, one point was clear, the sometime Lakes Region resident said: No new taxes.
“We’re not raising taxes. That is a red line for us.” Romney rejected user fee hikes as well.
Negotiations between President Joe Biden and Republican senators (led by Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia) fell apart largely over funding issues. Biden’s plan would cost $1.7 trillion and he wants tax hikes to pay for it. He’s pushing a 25 percent increase in the corporate income tax rate.
Republicans are a hard “no.”
“The president doesn’t have the votes to do it his way. He can try. He can keep trying,” Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), viewed as a moderate, said in an interview on Bloomberg TV Wednesday. To pass an infrastructure bill without either busting the filibuster or using reconciliation — which Democrats would like to save for more aggressively progressive legislation — won’t be possible unless 10 Republicans cross the aisle.
That’s highly unlikely as long as Biden insists on broad-based tax hikes.
One outside-the-box effort to build GOP support for Biden’s infrastructure plan: Dinner with Kamala.
Vice President Harris has invited all the Senate ladies to the Naval Observatory for dinner next Tuesday in a show of bipartisanship, according to Politico. “All 24 female senators (16 Democrats and eight Republicans)were invited to the dinner on June 15 at the Observatory, according to three Senate sources — a get-together coming at the height of negotiations over infrastructure. A Harris aide confirmed the dinner is a go,” Politico reported.
The dinner will provide an opportunity for female senators to discuss Biden’s infrastructure plan in a casual setting, according to a Harris aide.
Meanwhile, more political observers are asking, “What will Hassan do?” Given the history of Democratic Senate losses in a president’s first midterm (an average of six seats) and the possibility she may face popular incumbent Gov. Chris Sununu next year, Hassan’s political fortunes are far from certain. A new Washington Post article refers to her as an “endangered incumbent.”
So, why not join Shaheen and back a compromise spending plan that avoids tax increases? It would be an actual act of bipartisanship, as opposed to simply passing out press releases. If bipartisanship really is a winner, why not start here?
Thus far, Hassan is staying on the sidelines. Is it that she fears angering the progressive base? Is she worried about losing support among Washington Democrats — and risk the tens of millions of their dollars she’ll need when she runs next year?
Or is Hassan simply working the incumbent playbook of avoiding as many controversial issues as possible?
That may work today. But as the election approaches, millions of GOP campaign ad dollars will make sure she’s facing these issues before Election Day.