One Senator’s Stand Against The Senate’s Bipartisan Sellout

Posted on Tuesday, August 10, 2021
by AMAC Newsline

AMAC Exclusive

Often as a legislative recess approaches, lawmakers who had before been staunchly opposed to particular legislation suddenly fold, and bitter divisions over controversial bills miraculously melt away amid the longing for a days’ or weeks’ long hiatus from Washington. The phenomenon is referred to as “smelling jet fumes” and, for better or for worse, it is one of the most powerful drivers of legislative action in the modern Congress. The debate over Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill has again shown this to be the case, with more than a dozen Republicans voting with Democrats to advance the legislation as Senators anxiously await their traditional August recess. But over the weekend, one Senator, Bill Hagerty of Tennessee, remained firm as the sole individual blocking expedited passage of the bill, marking a courageous stand for conservatives everywhere opposed to Biden’s unprecedented spending binge.

The standoff between Hagerty and the rest of the Senate began last Thursday following the release of a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score that found that the infrastructure bill would increase the national debt by $256 billion. Previously, proponents of the bill on both sides of the political aisle had assured skeptical Republicans that the legislation’s $550 billion in new spending would be completely paid for by re-allocating unused funds from other areas of the budget and would not add any unpaid-for spending. The CBO’s analysis undercuts that assertion, something that Hagerty cited as a primary reason for his opposition to the bill. 

Under Senate rules, all 100 Senators must agree to move forward on a bill in order to limit debate on the legislation. The motion to dispense with debate is usually accomplished through what is known as a unanimous consent agreement, whereby Senators simply have to withhold objection in order for the motion to pass. In this case, Hagerty alone objected, forcing the Senate to open the floor for debate, and stalling passage of the bill.

“I was asked consent to expedite the process and pass [the infrastructure bill]” Hagerty said in a written statement. “I could not, in good conscience, allow that to happen at this hour – especially when the objective of the majority is to hurry up and pass this bill so that they can move quickly to their $3.5 trillion tax-and-spend spree designed to implement the Green New Deal and increase Americans’ dependence on the government, so I objected.”

Former President Donald Trump, who has spoken out against passage of the infrastructure bill, tipped his hat to Haggerty in a statement on Sunday, writing, “Congratulations to Senator Bill Hagerty in remaining true to ‘AMERICA FIRST!’”

Yet Hagerty’s opposition, which forced the Senate to convene both days this weekend, did not win him any friends among the cadre of Republicans hoping to quickly pass the bill, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Democrats were even more irked, with Senator Chris Coons of Delaware reportedly interrupting an interview to accuse Hagerty of holding up debate on the bill.

But Hagerty was not backing down, despite the admonishments of Democrats and even some Republicans. “I wasn’t elected by the people of Tennessee to be the most popular person in the Senate,” Hagerty said. “I was elected to stand up for their interests.”

Hagerty has also voiced a concern shared by many Republicans (and also recently reported by AMAC Newsline) that passage of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill will simply clear the way for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to ram through Biden’s $3.5 trillion social welfare bill under the budget reconciliation process, which only needs a simple majority to pass.

All indications point to those fears being well-founded as the infrastructure bill nears final passage. On Sunday, despite the fact that Schumer and several other Democrat Senators have repeatedly claimed that they wanted to consider amendments to the infrastructure bill, Arizona Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, an alleged moderate who led the coalition of Senators that crafted the legislation, blocked Hagerty from introducing a set of amendments. Hagerty responded that the move revealed “[Democrats’] true intention” of quickly moving to passage of the $3.5 trillion bill, which Hagerty has called “a socialist debt bomb.”

Hagerty has repeatedly emphasized that he is not opposed to moving forward on amendments to the infrastructure bill, but Schumer has thus far refused to bring any amendment to the floor for debate unless Hagerty withdraws his opposition to moving forward on the overall bill. “It’s obvious that Senator Schumer is staging this in a way to put additional pressure on people,” Hagerty said. “He doesn’t care about good infrastructure. Clearly, if he did, he’d allow the amendment process to go forward.” Previously, Schumer had planned on bringing forward less than 25 amendments of the more than 150 that were filed.

Hagerty’s procedural delay tactics are unlikely to prevent final passage of the bill, which is expected sometime on Tuesday. However, his opposition has provided fresh opportunity to highlight flaws in the legislation and refocused the national spotlight on Democrats’ overtly partisan legislation that is soon to follow.

In addition, Hagerty’s resistance has become a powerful symbol of holding firm to conservative principles even amid pressure from within the Republican establishment. Such actions are sure to energize conservatives across the country who are hungry for leaders who will not compromise on core values in the interest of appearing “bipartisan.” Looking ahead to next year, if Republicans wish to retake Congress, more GOP hopefuls may do well to follow Hagerty’s example, lest voters view them as no stronger on the issues than their Democratic counterparts.

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