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6 takeaways from Sen. Todd Young's infrastructure off-ramp
Young’s advisors remained determined to make him the sanest, most electable Republican in a primary
Sen. Todd Young—the first-term conservative Hoosier Republican and one of the gang of 20 Republicans and Democrats who are part of a governing coalition in a 50-50 Senate—announced Sunday evening that he now opposed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
The news came four days after Young voted to begin debate on the bipartisan infrastructure framework, saying he looked “forward to continuing to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle as we sand and polish the final product.”
“As I’ve said many times, while I’m eager for a bill that makes these investments, I’m also committed to doing so in a fiscally responsible way,” said Young, who in his first term alone has supported a range of budgets and measures leading to a more than $8 trillion increase in the national debt. “Having reviewed the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) estimated fiscal impact of this legislation as currently constructed, and frankly still not being comfortable with a number of the Democratic priorities contained in this version, I will vote ‘no.’”
What can we learn from Indiana’s senior senator’s infrastructure off-ramp (or was it a U-turn in a roundabout for the Carmel native)?
Here are six takeaways:
Young’s advisors remain determined to position him as the sanest, most electable Republican in a primary. Young—despite being endorsed by two former Hoosier vice presidents, 96 percent of Republican Indiana General Assembly members, and 92 percent of Republican county chairs—still doesn’t have the endorsement of ex-President Donald Trump. His advisors remain skittish of a primary by a self-funded Trump acolyte, though none seem to be in the offing. With Trump slagging the bill in recent days, Young couldn’t—or wasn’t willing to—risk a primary challenge.
Young still ranks among the Senate’s key players as a deft inside operator. In July, a reporter in the Capitol asked Young about whether he would defect from the bill. “I think it's better to keep a number of the invested stakeholders guessing as to what I'll do at this point,” Young said. Young appears to have used his influence to shape the bill up to the last minute, hoping to both get a better legislative product and, in the end, limit blowback back home for supporting a bill with such a price tag. (Remember: Young recently oversaw the passage of the $250 billion U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, which Republican members of the Indiana delegation have criticized).
Young’s support for the bill in its early stages was always more important for the bill’s final passage than whether he would be its 68th, 69th or 70th vote. The Senate shut down the debate on the bill with a 68-29 vote. Young got the bill as far as he thought he could and then tapped out—either assuming all of the political damage with his base while accruing none of the benefits from moderate voters; or getting the best result he could and making an exit before those same voters became more dialed into the process, depending on your perspective.
Young’s a conservative in a moderate wrapper. Despite his seemingly moderate mien and temperament, Young has proved time and again that he is a conservative, and some of the underlying Democratic priorities in the bill—we don’t know which ones, specifically, because he didn’t elucidate them—were unpalatable to him.
It’s unclear how many more acrobatic maneuvers like this Young is capable of. This is the third time in eight months Young has walked back or softened a stance contrary to party orthodoxy on a major issue: Trump’s culpability for Jan. 6, a call for a ceasefire in the Middle East, and now the bipartisan infrastructure framework. How many more times can he do that?
Indiana Democrats are ready to make Young’s pivot an issue in 2022. “This is classic Todd Young,” said Lauren Ganapini, executive director for the Indiana Democratic Party. “He consistently promises Hoosiers one thing, but changes course when it matters most.” And Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott, the ex-Navy nuclear submarine mechanic and Notre Dame-educated lawyer attacked Young’s vote in a lengthy statement to IMPORTANTVILLE:
Indiana Sen. Todd Young recently acknowledged that Indiana has 5,500 miles of highways that are in poor condition, which was the reason he initially supported President Biden and Secretary Buttigieg’s bipartisan infrastructure package. This bill would help solve this Hoosier dilemma by delivering close to $1 trillion in aid to states, which could use this money to rebuild their crumbling infrastructure and create good-paying union jobs in the process. Indiana, in particular, stood ready to receive close to $7 Billion of this aid for its own failing roads and bridges.
Today, Sen. Young, who voted multiple times to move this bipartisan bill through the Senate, announced an about-face. He is suddenly claiming that the bill is too expensive for him to support. But this excuse rings hollow when you consider that Sen. Young voted for every pork-filled bill that came his way during President Trump’s administration, resulting in a whopping 8 Trillion Dollar increase to our national debt.
American needs to rebuild its crumbling infrastructure. This bipartisan bill will give us the resources to repair the roadways, airports, and bridges that have been neglected for far too long. And in the process, we can finally rebuild America’s disappearing middle class.
America needs to witness the US Senate actually working together, as Americans, for the betterment of America, instead of just throwing up partisan roadblocks. It appeared for a while that Sen. Young would be one of the leaders in the Senate, helping move a bill that’s important for America forward in a bipartisan manner. Now, with Young’s abrupt about-face, it appears he’s more interested in avoiding a primary challenge than reinvesting in America’s future. Hoosiers expected more from Sen. Young. Instead, we got a man so desperate for an endorsement from the former President, he is willing to sell out the working class Hoosiers.
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