Pro-infrastructure Republicans fire back amid attacks from Trump GOP: 'angry as hell'

Rep. Malliotakis supports infrastructure bill: We’ve taken away socialists’ leverage

Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, R-N.Y., reiterated her support for the Democrats’ infrastructure bill, arguing it dismantles leverage from the ‘socialist squad.’

The 13 House Republicans who voted for the infrastructure bill are coming under heavy fire from the Trump wing of the GOP, including cutting comments from the former president himself, a reported threat to remove them from their committee assignments and death threats from the public, according to one office. 

“Very sad that the RINOs in the House and Senate gave Biden and Democrats a victory on the ‘Non-Infrastructure’ Bill,” Trump said in a statement. “They just don’t get it!”

But those Republicans, including Reps. Nicole Malliotakis, R-N.Y., Fred Upton, R-Mich., and Don Bacon, R-Neb., are firing back, arguing that their votes made Democrats’ massive social spending bill less likely to pass. They say this is because progressives like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., can no longer hold the infrastructure bill hostage, so moderate Democrats will be free to tank the reconciliation spending bill. 

“We significantly took away the leverage from the socialist ‘Squad,’” on the reconciliation spending bill, Malliotakis said on Fox News Tuesday. “It is why AOC and the others voted against it.”

Ocasio-Cortez was one of six progressive Democrats to vote against infrastructure. She explicitly cited the need to preserve leverage for big spending in the reconciliation package. 

Malliotakis added: “We’ve taken away their leverage and that this spending bill will either continue to be reduced… The fact that they are crying about it just tells you they’re the losers here.” 

Trump and his allies in and out of Congress believe the pro-infrastructure Republicans handed President Biden a win at the most vulnerable point in his presidency. Some even accuse the group of being “traitors,” a charged term in a Republican Party still largely dominated by the former president. 

Fox News Digital confirmed reports that Trump railed against the Republicans who voted for infrastructure at a National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) dinner Monday, with Malliotakis in attendance. And Punchbowl News reported this week that there is even a behind-the-scenes effort to strip the 13 pro-infrastructure Republicans of their committee assignments. 

Bacon pushed back against the criticism, saying in a Tuesday phone interview with Fox News that it makes him “angry as hell because most of it’s false.”

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    Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., listens during a news conference outside the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on July 30, 2021.  (Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

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    Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, R-N.Y., talks with Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, during a forum in Washington on June 29, 2021.  (Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Bacon emphasized the distinction between the infrastructure bill and the Democrats’ $1.7 trillion reconciliation package, and blasted critics of the legislation for “using data from the reconciliation bill to attack this bill.”

The Nebraska Republican said the argument against the bill “stems from our leadership saying that a vote for hard infrastructure bills are votes for reconciliation, and that is just absolutely false.” The U.S. needs “modernized infrastructure,” Bacon said. 

“So I don’t like how our side and some of our local ‘conservative media’ has said that a vote for this is a vote for the other,” Bacon said. “It’s false and ultimately I hold our team responsible if they’re using it.”

“There is a lot of misinformation being circulated, but the truth is that this bill is good for my district and good for the country,” Rep. Andrew Garbarino, R-N.Y., told Fox News.

“It will deliver nearly $170 billion to New York State to make crucial infrastructure investments and create middle-class jobs while fixing our roads, bridges, railroads and sewer systems to make Long Islanders’ lives better,” he added. “[B]y passing this bill, we have weakened the position of progressives in negotiating their wasteful spending bill because they can no longer hold physical infrastructure hostage to get their way.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., talks with a reporter as she walks down the House steps in Washington on July 1, 2021. 
( (Photo by Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images))

Some criticism has also fallen on House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., for allegedly not being able to sufficiently control his conference. Former Trump campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis said, “McCarthy handed Biden his infrastructure bill on a silver platter.” 

But the GOP leader whipped against the infrastructure bill for weeks and faced an uphill battle to reduce any “yes” votes when initial estimates of Republicans who supported the bill were as high as 50 or more. 

Billy Fuerst, a spokesman for Upton – one of the yeses – said if there was a straight infrastructure vote in August before progressives tied it to infrastructure, there may have been 80 Republicans supporting the bill. 

“The flashy number 13 is not telling the whole story,” a House Republican aide told Fox News. “When you have that small of a threshold, and progressives changing their mind basically on the floor, and all of these Republican yeses who have been that way very publicly for a long time… At the same time 19 Republicans, or 38% of Republicans in the Senate, including McConnell, voted for it. And we had 6% of our conference vote for it. At the end of the day, House Republicans voted or it at a much smaller margin than the Senate did.”

Regarding the potential of the 13 “yes” votes losing their committee assignments, Fuerst said, “I don’t think that’s gonna happen.” 

Among the 19 Senate GOP yeses, Fuerst argued, was “Lindsey Graham, who is virtually President Trump’s one of his closest friends in the Senate.”

“Regrettably we’re getting death threats from the office,” Fuerst added. “Par for the course since January ever since Mr. Upton voted to impeach the former president.”

Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington at a House Rules Committee meeting. An aide told Fox News his office has been getting death threats after voting for the infrastructure bill.
(AP)

Fuerst also pointed out that Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan – a Republican – was one of the driving forces behind the infrastructure talks when they began earlier this year. He added that as a member of the Problem Solvers Caucus, Upton helped “jumpstart” efforts behind the bill, which he said includes only $550 billion in new spending, with the rest simply reauthorization of previously planned highway spending. 

Fuerst also said now that infrastructure is passed, the “path narrows” for Democrats to pass their massive social spending bill. 

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said he believes the exact opposite is the case on “The Ingraham Angle” this week. The pro-infrastructure Republicans “increased momentum” for the reconciliation bill, he said, and decided “to rescue Nancy Pelosi from the bill crashing on its own.” 

“I pray to God the Bernie Sanders socialist budget doesn’t pass but these Republicans, sadly, made it more likely,” Cruz added. 

But, Fuerst said, “They need [West Virginia Democrat Sen. Joe] Manchin,” to pass reconciliation – but now they don’t have the infrastructure bill as a hostage. 

Fox News’ Andrew Mark Miller contributed to this report. 

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