A GOP trap.

A GOP trap. Illustrated | iStock

Here’s a new one: The Senate GOP seems to have figured out how to kill the infrastructure bill by being for it — or appearing to be so, anyway.

Politico reports the chamber’s Republicans are thinking about supporting massive new infrastructure spending — worth about $1 trillion — in the belief that by passing a big bipartisan bill, they can kill off the parts of the proposal that progressive Democrats really like, like child care and clean energy. As negotiations over infrastructure spending have dragged out, Dem leadership has apparently settled on a two-track strategy — the bipartisan bill for the “physical infrastructure” stuff that both parties can agree on, presumably with enough votes to overcome a filibuster, and a second bill containing the progressive priorities, to be passed using the filibuster-proof reconciliation process.

Republican leaders say that by supporting the first bill, they can pit progressive Democrats against moderates like Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) to make the reconciliation proposal unpassable.

“The stars are kind of lining up for an infrastructure bill,” Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) said. “And if you do do something bipartisan on that, then I think doing something partisan on reconciliation — in some ways, with certain Democrats — it gets a lot harder.”

By being so open about their strategy, though, Republicans might kill off the possibility that Democrats can pass any infrastructure bill at all. Indeed, you have to wonder if that’s the point.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) announced Monday he will oppose the bipartisan proposal, and other progressives in the Senate and House sound ready to join him unless they get a commitment from moderates to support the reconciliation bill. So far, that hasn’t happened. Thune’s comments seem calculated to exacerbate those intra-Dem divisions — and if not, that’s the end result anyway. As a result, the whole process is in danger of falling apart.

It’s generally safe when observing Congress to operate on the assumption that the GOP uses bipartisanship theater as a tool to deny Democrats any legislative victories whatsoever. As the muddle over infrastructure proves, there’s a reason Republicans keep using the strategy: It works.

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