Republicans who have spent years blocking critical infrastructure spending suddenly seem incensed at the idea that we are not spending money on critical infrastructure.
Friday marked one year since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and throughout the week, Republicans increasingly and in larger numbers criticized the Biden administration’s support of the attacked nation. And they’ve been using the disastrous Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, as fodder for their complaints.
Regardless of one’s specific views on sustained military support for Ukraine, the argument is rich coming from conservatives, who have fought tooth and nail to water down massive infrastructure investments over the past few years, especially in Biden’s Build Back Better effort.
Tucker Carlson, for example, has dedicated countless hours on his program to bullying Republicans for supporting infrastructure spending, only to suddenly change tune when he could then blame it all on Ukraine.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act was first introduced by the Biden administration as a $2.3 trillion appendage of the larger investment effort. After conservative stonewalling, the bill was cut to $1.2 trillion in what was then called the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. About $14 billion of rail modernization dollars were cut out in the watered-down framework. Such is the cost of “bipartisan” collaboration with intransigent Republicans, it seems. And this was just one of many losses incurred after conservatives—including Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema—hamstrung Democratic efforts to deliver on the infrastructure-building agenda they were elected to carry out.
Two years ago, Senator Ted Cruz bragged about standing strong alongside Senators Ron Johnson and Mike Lee against any Republicans expressing a willingness to work with Democrats.
And now Cruz, who cosplayed as an ally to rail workers asking for more industry regulation, is in fact holding his tune for deregulation:
And while celebrating more deregulation, Cruz also spent his week podcasting to complain about Biden visiting Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Johnson is busy fundraising off the East Palestine derailment, complaining that “the media is barely covering this.” Beyond taking money from Norfolk Southern and fighting against infrastructure spending alongside Cruz, one of the only rail-related bills Johnson has signed off on was one backed by the Association of American Railroads. It sought to delay the industry-wide implementation of a monitoring system to help prevent train collisions and derailments. Norfolk Southern is among the companies represented by the association.
Senator Josh Hawley is also now pitting spending on Ukraine and East Palestine against each other, but years ago, he complained about the proposed infrastructure bill. He took specific issue with the bill’s environmental investments. (Conservatives now feign concern for the kinds of environmental issues in East Palestine that plague communities all across the country, ones that would in fact have been addressed by Green New Deal–esque investment).
It is reasonable to question how long the United States may stay involved in Ukraine—or any affairs elsewhere, given our track record. But it’s unserious for conservatives who have already dedicated much of their careers to fighting against government investment to now posture as eager proponents of mass infrastructure projects. But, hey, if it’s sincere, be our guest: We’ll be waiting for the legislation!