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In defiance of Trump, more than one-third of Senate GOP backs infrastructure bill

Nineteen Republicans backed the bipartisan package, advancing a centerpiece of President Joe Biden's agenda.
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Former President Donald Trump's calls to thwart the centerpiece of President Joe Biden's agenda went unheeded by 19 Senate Republicans, who joined all 50 Democratic-voting senators Tuesday to pass a $550 billion infrastructure package.

The "yes" votes amounted to one of the more significant rebukes of Trump, who maintains a strong grip on the party's base and sought unsuccessfully to pass an infrastructure deal of his own when he was in office.

In recent weeks, Trump criticized Republicans for supporting the effort and threatened them with possible primary challengers. Although he didn't make clear what specifically in the bill he disliked, he framed opposition to it in terms of limiting future Democratic legislation.

"It is a loser for the USA, a terrible deal, and makes the Republicans look weak, foolish, and dumb," he said in a statement last month. "It shouldn't be done. It sets an easy glidepath for Dems to then get beyond what anyone thought was possible in future legislation. ... Don't do it Republicans — Patriots will never forget! If this deal happens, lots of primaries will be coming your way!"

But the threats weren't enough to deter 40 percent of the Republican caucus.

Trump focused much of his ire on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. He had said the proposal was "the beginning of the Green New Deal" before he blamed McConnell for not having advanced an infrastructure package during his presidency, when McConnell was the Senate majority leader.

Trump's White House repeatedly tried to stage "infrastructure week" to focus the administration's message on the need for an infrastructure bill. But after Trump repeatedly derailed such efforts by blasting controversial tweets that absorbed the media's attention, "infrastructure week" became a running joke in Washington about his lack of message discipline.

That senators who broke with Trump were McConnell, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Deb Fischer of Nebraska, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Rob Portman of Ohio, Mitt Romney of Utah, Roger Wicker of Mississippi, Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Richard Burr and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Mike Crapo and Jim Risch of Idaho, and Kevin Cramer and John Hoven of North Dakota.

Among the supporters were five senators who vote to convict Trump in his second impeachment trial and two others who aren't seeking re-election next year.

But the group also included senators who rarely were at odds with Trump and who hailed from states he won overwhelmingly last fall. Five of the GOP senators who backed the deal come from states Trump carried in the last election by more than 30 points.

"There's a joke around town that infrastructure week has come and gone so many times that people are a little cynical when we talk about it," a lead negotiator, Portman, one of the retiring senators, said before the vote. "Well, today is infrastructure day — we're actually going to see what we've been talking about, which is the Senate, on a bipartisan basis, saying you know what, it is time to fix our roads and bridges. We can do so in a responsible way, not by raising taxes on the American people, but by making important investments in long-term capital assets that will last for years."

At the same time, the package has been viewed skeptically by some progressive House Democrats who say it doesn't go far enough. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has said the bill won't get a vote in the House until the Senate passes a separate, larger package of measures to bolster the social safety net.