Congress voted on a massive infrastructure spending bill last fall. Despite being packed with wins for left-wing interest groups and adding to the spending spree that has fueled devastating inflation, 19 Republican senators crossed over to provide it with far more than enough votes to pass.
The Biden administration has predictably used the bill for political and ideological gain.
That provides another example of why self-described conservatives should oppose legislation that gives Washington more control over what happens across the 50 states.
It didn’t take long for the administration to push the highway bill even further to the left. Just a few weeks after President Joe Biden signed the package into law, the Federal Highway Administration issued a memo that sought to strong-arm states regarding how they spent the highway dollars.
The attempted power grab by Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg was called out by Republican governors and senators. Buttigieg tried to spin the memo as mere “guidance,” even though it clearly stated which highway projects the Biden administration would prioritize, a practice that was not authorized by the legislation.
In April, the Department of Transportation joined other federal agencies in putting forward an “equity action plan” that includes de facto racial quotas for federal contractors and will seek to empower left-wing activists in areas such as regional planning and environmental review.
While this diversity-obsessed nonsense avoids having hard rules or metrics that would likely lead to legal action, it’s yet another reason to avoid routing taxpayer dollars through Washington bureaucracies.
Another aspect of the infrastructure bill was $7.5 billion for “local and regional project assistance” grants. Where most infrastructure projects funded with the bill are selected by state governments, these grants are entirely controlled by the federal Department of Transportation.
In another predictable development, the Biden administration has chosen to prioritize projects for mass transit and bikes with those grants, rather than the roads and bridges that the vast majority of Americans rely on every day.
That’s on top of programs and carve-outs that already deliver those liberal priorities an outsized share of federal funding.
There’s also a political dynamic at work. In announcing grant recipients, the Department of Transportation led with projects in the battleground states of Arizona, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, and North Carolina.
As if that weren’t blatant enough, Buttigieg’s official event to celebrate the grant awards was held in Arizona with Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, who is up for re-election this year.
Buttigieg, who ran for president in 2020 and is often referenced as a top Democratic contender after Biden departs, has used infrastructure project announcements as an excuse to barnstorm the country.
In addition to the Arizona event, the transportation chief has made official appearances in Alabama, California, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Utah, Wisconsin, and even Germany, just since April.
It should be noted that Buttigieg claims it’s very important to reduce carbon emissions in transportation. That apparently necessitates middle-class Americans paying through the nose to buy electric vehicles, rather than putting any limits on his extensive travel.
Politicizing infrastructure is just the latest in a long line of ways that the left has taken advantage of opportunities presented to them when Republicans go along with expansions of the federal government.
The left has mastered the art of playing the long game. For more than a century, the progressive movement has relentlessly sought to centralize power and control in Washington. Time and again, compromises made by the center-right for the sake of short-term political considerations have led to permanent new programs and bureaucracies for the left to take advantage of.
Some Republicans were willing to give win after win to the left in infrastructure negotiations for the sake of getting more “free” highway money for their states.
Others have been willing to go along with the return of pork earmarks, or with trading modest increases to defense spending in exchange for huge increases to nondefense spending, in the annual appropriations process.
The nation is in the grip of inflation fueled by federal spending and is rapidly heading towards bankruptcy.
As such, it is urgent for conservatives both inside and outside of the Capitol to demand a stop to seemingly limitless federal spending and the unchecked growth in the number of bureaucrats. Then, legislators should get to work on draining the swamp.
The future of our hard-won freedom and prosperity depends on it.
This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal