by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
A trillion dollars used to be a lot of money, even in Washington. Now, a trillion-dollar spending bill is a trifle barely worth arguing over and the stuff of bipartisan consensus.
Oscar Wilde famously said that nothing succeeds like excess, but even he might blanch at the shameless profligacy that is America’s new normal.
In their wisdom, Senate Republicans decided to help President Joe Biden pass a portion of his blow-out fiscal agenda, a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that is a prelude to an even bigger, vastly more consequential $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill.
The infrastructure bill itself is, as fiscal analyst Brian Riedl of the Manhattan Institute notes, “one of the largest non-emergency spending bills of the past 50 years.”
Republicans told themselves that only about half, $550 billion, is new spending, and that, by going along, they can take the heat off of Democratic moderates Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin, who are being constantly pressured to ditch the filibuster.
Perhaps, but there’s no doubt that the GOP has blessed — and lent a bipartisan imprimatur to — a portion of the president’s hoped-for historic spending spree. In so doing, they have taken at least a little ownership of an agenda they should want no part of.
Republicans will have much less influence, and perhaps none, on the next spate of spending, which is the so-called soft infrastructure (a.k.a., a wish list of progressive social programs) after the “hard” infrastructure in the bipartisan bill (roads, bridges, rail).
Under the reconciliation process, tax and spending bills evade the filibuster in the Senate, so Democrats can pass whatever they want so long as they hold all 50 of their senators.
The sheer numbers here are jaw-dropping. Including the $1.9 trillion so-called COVID-19 relief bill from earlier this year, Biden wants to spend nearly $6 trillion in three measures passed within months of one another.