While acknowledging several of its projects would help Central Washington, the “greater ramifications” of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill and the approval process used by House Democrats made it unacceptable to U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse.
The Sunnyside Republican, who represents Yakima County and Washington’s 4th Congressional District, expanded on his reasons for voting against the measure in a statement emailed Tuesday to the Yakima Herald-Republic.
The infrastructure bill was approved last month by the House, following the Senate’s approval in August, and signed into law by President Joe Biden on Nov. 15.
Thirteen House Republicans joined the majority of Democrats on Nov. 5 in a 228-206 vote approving the infrastructure bill. Six progressive Democrats, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, voted “no” because they wanted the infrastructure and $2 trillion Build Back Better Act of social programs to pass together, the Associated Press reported.
Newhouse decried the link between the two bills in a statement issued Nov. 8, and in his Tuesday statement to the Herald-Republic he continued to criticize Democratic Party leadership for tying the two initiatives together.
“Rather than working across the aisle to achieve a smart, bipartisan solution for our communities, Democratic leadership instead used extortionary tactics to link the ‘Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework’ to the passage of the debt-inducing Build Back Better Act, which will enact a socialist wish list that will fundamentally change the fabric of our society, raise taxes, and increase inflation for individuals and families in our district who are already struggling,” Newhouse said.
“The ‘Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework,” or BIF, became a trigger for the Democratic leadership to ram their socialist spending spree through Congress,” Newhouse said. “While many of the projects included in the BIF —including the East-West (Corridor) Project — were ones I fought for, and will continue to fight for, in my role on the House Appropriations Committee, the greater ramifications passing this bill would have on Central Washington communities made this a package I ultimately could not support.”
Part of the infrastructure bill signed by Biden includes $7.5 billion for the RAISE (Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity) Grant Program, which funds surface transportation work and is dedicated to an equal split in funding between rural and urban areas.
Yakima County projects that could receive RAISE funds include the East-West Corridor Project, which would build an alternative connection between Terrace Heights, the City of Yakima and I-82.
The East-West Corridor is one of four Yakima County projects for which Newhouse sought funding from the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, according to his website, newhouse.house.gov. Newhouse requested $4 million for Phase II of the East-West Corridor project.
Other requests included:
• U.S. Highway 97/Jones Road intersection improvements near Wapato ($4,464,000)
• A project to relieve flooding on State Route 410 at Rock Creek, east of Chinook Pass ($3,562,000)
• Improvements to two U.S. Highway 12 intersections (Eschbach Road and Ackley Road) near Naches ($1,452,000)
Funding for a fifth project involving the widening of U.S. 12 from two to four lanes near Walla Walla also was requested, with Newhouse seeking $14,400,000 for the work.
These projects were approved by the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in June and were solicited in a fair and open process, with final decisions made by the Central Washington Community Project Funding Advisory Board, a spokesperson for Newhouse said.
“I remain unequivocally committed to advocating for smart, targeted infrastructure funding for Central Washington, not pushing through partisan packages that will threaten our way of life,” Newhouse said in his emailed statement.
Washington Democrats Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray were part of a 69-30 Senate vote in August to approve the infrastructure bill.
Nineteen Republican senators supported the bill, including Mike Crapo and Jim Risch of Idaho and Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan of Alaska.
Upon Biden’s signing of the bill, both Cantwell and Murray issued statements highlighting the projects it could fund in Washington, including Yakima County road improvements, $5.2 million over the next five years for improvements at the Yakima Air Terminal; high-speed internet connections for Yakima Valley families; and additional monies for a proposal to return passenger rail service to Central Washington.