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Rep. Kelly Armstrong, House GOP colleagues vote against infrastructure bill

The chilly House GOP reception is in sharp contrast to Senate support.

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An American flag flies outside of the U.S. Capitol dome in Washington, January 15, 2020. REUTERS/Tom Brenner/File Photo
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Rep. Kelly Armstrong voted with most of his House GOP colleagues on Friday night against a $1 trillion infrastructure package. Although the bill ultimately passed, 228-206, it was with minimal GOP support, with upper Midwest members of Congress voting almost entirely along party lines on this key part of President Joe Biden’s agenda.

The spending package has been a closely watched source of funding around the country for months, and especially since the Senate’s 69-30 passage of the bill in early August . The bill sets aside significant funding for everything from roads and bridges to rural internet access. Also, many have been keenly interested in what it could mean for local airports, highway interchanges and underpasses around the country.

RELATED: Airports in North Dakota, Minnesota look toward potential infrastructure dollars

But in recent weeks, Democrats have struggled to pass the bill. Internal party negotiations about the contents of a more ambitious, multi-trillion dollar social spending plan — Biden’s Build Back Better Act — have bogged down the less-costly and more focused infrastructure measure.

And Armstrong, R-N.D., in opposing the infrastructure bill, said he was casting a vote against a broader Democratic agenda.

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“One won't pass without the other,” he said of both spending packages. “Together, they are an at least $3 trillion social engineering project that will increase taxes, cause consumer costs to explode, and usher in more government control over the lives of Americans. … We cannot continue to spend money we don’t have and saddle future generations with the consequences of reckless spending.”

Ditto for Reps. Michelle Fischbach and Pete Stauber, both R-Minn, and Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D. They were joined by the rest of the Republicans in the Minnesota delegation, including Reps. Tom Emmer and Jim Hagedorn.

Minnesota Democrats voted for the bill almost unanimously. Reps. Angie Craig, Betty McCollum and Dean Phillips backed the infrastructure measure.

Notably, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., voted against the package. In a Friday evening statement, she explained that her vote was closely tied to concern for the future of the Build Back Better plan — the more ambitious spending package her party is now pursuing.

“From the beginning, I have been clear that I would not be able to support the infrastructure bill without a vote on the Build Back Better Act,” she said. “Passing the infrastructure bill without passing the Build Back Better Act first risks leaving behind child care, paid leave, health care, climate action, housing, education and a roadmap to citizenship.”

North Dakota’s senators have touted the benefits of the bill, including $1.7 billion over five years for highways, roads and bridges, plus a likely cut of $2.5 billion in nationwide flood mitigation funds and $200 million for clean water. In Minnesota, Rep. Phillips said the bill could bring nearly $5 billion for roads and bridges, plus $680 million for “water systems.”

That’s without counting the bill’s extensive nationwide spending on public transit, airports and broadband internet.

The close vote in the House stands in remarkable contrast to the infrastructure package’s more popular reception in the Senate, where it passed with supermajority support. And despite many House Republicans’ rejection of the bill on Friday evening, their GOP colleagues in the Senate released statements defending it.

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“This legislation is actually the regular highway bill with additional support for traditional hard infrastructure,” Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said in a statement, stressing that it’s “now decoupled” from Democrats’ more ambitious social spending plan. “... Also, importantly it does not raise taxes and has pay-fors including repurposing of COVID-19 funds.”

Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., called the infrastructure bill “the right thing to do for North Dakota and our country.”

“Unlike the Democrat’s wasteful, partisan tax and spending spree, the hard infrastructure deal makes long overdue investments in the roads and bridges every American uses and is fully paid for,” Cramer said.

With the infrastructure bill passed, the House and Senate will now turn to the difficult task of passing Democrats’ larger social spending package — which has bedeviled the party and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for months.

“Welcome to my world — this is the Democratic Party,” Pelosi, delaying a vote on that bigger bill, told the press in Washington last week. “We are not a lock-step party.”

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Rep. Kelly Armstrong

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