Rebuilding infrastructure is popular. Counterintuitively, bipartisan agreements in Congress are more common than we think, says Molly Reynolds, a congressional analyst with the Brookings Institution. But the really big stuff gets stuck in the mud — think immigration and police reform. Those issues are extremely controversial. Some 70 percent of Americans approve of spending money on infrastructure, a recent Monmouth University poll found, making this President Biden’s most popular spending priority.
It doesn’t have any major enemies. Gun-control advocates will point out that expanded background checks is extremely popular, too. But there are hardcore opponents of limiting how Americans buy and use guns. By contrast, the only major opponents of spending money to build up roads and bridges and broadband connectivity are debt hawks. Those folks just weren’t a major player in this debate, in part because they’ve waned in influence and passion in recent years and in part because negotiators tried to find as many ways as possible to pay for the investments.
Plus, to many in Congress and voters back home, this was arguably money worth spending. Two polls, from Monmouth and Quinnipiac universities. found that there is narrow Republican opposition to the infrastructure bill but that some 40 percent of Republicans support it. “We need the investment,” said Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio). “Let’s be honest.”
It lands at strategically the right time for both parties. Control of both chambers of Congress is up for grabs next year. While elections tend to make both retreat to partisan safety, there is also something to be said for campaigning on being able to break the gridlock in Washington.