This week, an actual jobs idea garnered bipartisan support. Sens. John Kerry (D), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) and Mark Warner (D) teamed up to introduce "The BUILD Act" which would create a $10 billion "infrastructure bank" to provide loans and loan guarantees for infrastructure projects and attract additional private investment, as much as $640 billion worth over a decade.
Both the AFL-CIO and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce presidents came to the unveiling event to endorse the legislation. Democrats, Republicans, labor and corporations. Should be a no-brainer, right?
Apparently not. The New York Times reports that, "Senate officials said the outlook for such a program is dim, given the current fiscal constraints." Conservatives wasted no time maligning the bill on specious grounds.
Sen. John Thune claimed it would do nothing for rural projects, when the bill specifically sets asides funds for rural projects. The Heritage Foundation and National Review's Michelle Malkin levied a litany of falsehoods against the bill, calling it a "slush fund" for the "president's cronies" to "dole out" grants. In actuality, the bank would be run by a bipartisan board confirmed by the Senate, would only provide loans and would be independently audited.
So if this bill is to have a chance of becoming law, it's going to require a serious campaign to generate public pressure on Congress and debunk right-wing smears.
My question is: will the U.S. Chamber of Commerce step up, and spend the kind of money to pass the Build Act as it did to kill health care reform ($86 million) and elect a Republican Congress ($31 million)?
As I have written previously, it's nice that the Chamber is willing to partner with the AFL-CIO on infrastructure, but it's only a token gesture if everyone knows nothing will pass.
We know all the Chamber lobbyists are willing to spend tens of millions of dollars when an issue is important to them.
We know the Chamber lobbyists want the public to think infrastructure is important to them.
But is it because infrastructure actually is important to them? Or because it's a low-cost way to pretend it isn't really a conservative front group and is an authentic voice for American businesses?
I would very much like to believe it's the former and not the latter. When I see the money on the table, I'll know for sure.