House Republicans Are Split On Infrastructure Legislation It's not what is in the legislation to upgrade roads and bridges — a topic that usually draws bipartisan support — but rather how the House Democrats tried to package it with a larger spending bill.

Republicans Are Split On The Infrastructure Bill, But It's Mostly A Messaging Fight

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NOEL KING, HOST:

Here in D.C., House lawmakers will vote tomorrow on an infrastructure bill that the Senate approved last month. That bill passed with the support of Senate Republicans, but only a small group of House Republicans are expected to back it. NPR's acting congressional correspondent Deirdre Walsh explains why that is.

DEIRDRE WALSH, BYLINE: Michigan Republican Congressman Fred Upton says he's voting yes on the $1 trillion infrastructure bill when it comes up for a vote.

FRED UPTON: So I have no qualms about supporting that. We need infrastructure. And, you know, we don't change the Trump tax cuts. We don't raise taxes.

WALSH: He says during Michigan's tough winters, people complain a lot about the potholes, and that issue put the Democratic governor in office.

UPTON: Our governor, Gretchen Whitmer, three years ago won with one simple message - fix the damn roads.

WALSH: But House Republican leaders are urging their members to vote no. They say backing this bill paves the way to a larger $3.5 trillion spending bill on so-called human infrastructure - child care, health care, education programs. Upton disagrees with that strategy.

UPTON: They're trying to say that they're linked, but in fact, they're not linked. And I'd like to think we'd just vote on one and not the other.

WALSH: When pressed by NPR, this is how House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy explains his vote against a bill that could mean millions of dollars for his own district.

KEVIN MCCARTHY: Because you don't get millions of dollars for roads and broadbands. What you get is $5 trillion of more inflation. You get a bigger socialist - big government. You get a harm to our economy.

WALSH: But there's no final price tag for that legislation, and no vote on it is scheduled yet. Oklahoma Republican Congressman Tom Cole is voting no on the infrastructure bill. He says he doesn't like that the House was left out of the negotiations.

TOM COLE: We basically surrendered to the Senate, and whatever they decided was OK. We should have done our own, gone to conference with them, in a more traditional deal.

WALSH: But it's not just the process. He says the connection to the bigger package makes it harder politically to back the infrastructure bill.

COLE: It's been linked to a reconciliation bill. That's an anathema to everybody in my district. So it just makes it tough. And again, I think that would be true for Republicans that were inclined to be supportive of this anyway.

WALSH: South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham was one of 19 Republicans to vote for the bill last month.

LINDSEY GRAHAM: I think the $1.2 trillion makes sense to me. It's more good than bad.

WALSH: He predicted more House Republicans would back it if Democrats didn't try to link it with the broader bill. Upton says it's sad that the infrastructure issue, one that usually brings people together, is now so politically polarizing.

UPTON: Some say just vote no 'cause it gives Biden a win. The country needs a win.

WALSH: Another Republican, Adam Kinzinger from Illinois, says he plans to vote for the bill, but he's frustrated with both sides.

ADAM KINZINGER: I think everybody needs to quit playing games. And this is an OK bill. Let's get it done. The country needs it.

WALSH: Republicans were united against the COVID relief bill that President Biden signed in March, but it didn't stop some from taking credit for the checks that went out to families. Kinzinger predicts that will happen again with infrastructure. He says both parties are playing politics over programs they largely support, and that's just more proof about how broken the political system is right now.

Deirdre Walsh, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF ODDISEE'S "BEACH DR.")

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