U.S. Congress

Fitzpatrick, former House Republicans defend votes for infrastructure

Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick

Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick Keith Mellnick | Wikimedia Commons

It should go without saying that no lawmaker should be subject to death threats for doing their job. 

The bipartisan infrastructure bill passed by Congress last week didn’t come easily for anyone involved in the negotiating process. For the 13 House Republicans who voted for President Joe Biden’s legislation, the fallout from their affirmative votes has been increasingly hostile. 

Former President Donald Trump criticized Republicans who voted to pass the bill earlier this week, and following suit, hardline conservatives within the Republican Party, as well as constituents, have been targeting the GOP members who supported the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. These threats have ranged from calls to remove members from their committee assignments to even a phone message wishing death upon a member and his family.

Eighteen former House Republicans issued a letter Tuesday chastising GOP party leaders for their silence regarding the attacks their members have received from within the party and from the right. Former Pennsylvania Reps. Charlie Dent, Phil English, Jim Gerlach and Jim Greenwood were among the signees. 

“Irrespective of one’s view on the substance of the legislation, these members are to be commended for their independence, as they carefully weighed the policy impacts and benefits of this legislation for their districts,” the letter said. 

Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, one of the 13 receiving criticism, was the lone Pennsylvania Republican to vote for the $1.2 trillion bill. 

“With the House passage of the historic bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, we are one step closer to fixing our nation’s crumbling physical infrastructure. This is a victory for not only the people of Pennsylvania, but for the entire country,” Fitzpatrick said in a statement after passage. “From the start, I have insisted on the passage of a hard infrastructure bill, delinked from any other partisan, social spending package. This bipartisan, physical infrastructure bill, which passed the Senate in August with strong Republican support, is entirely separate from the partisan reconciliation bill, which I oppose.”

Fitzpatrick, who represents the First Congressional District covering Bucks and Montgomery counties, is the only Republican congressman in the Philadelphia region and is up for reelection in 2022. The bipartisan vote will likely fare well for Fitzpatrick in his competitive district, but that hasn’t stopped some fellow conservatives from condemning his support for Biden’s agenda. 

“Rumors are circulating that a movement is brewing within the House Republican Conference to remove some or all of the 13 members from their committee assignments as punishment for their votes. We can not imagine anything more ill-conceived, shortsighted and politically self-destructive than exacting retribution against these thoughtful 13 members who, in their condensed judgment, simply voted for the best interests of their districts,” the letter stated. “If capturing a congressional majority is the objective of House GOP leaders, attacking members whose districts are among the most competitive in the country, is reckless and counterproductive, as these seats could easily flip to the Democratic column.”

While Fitzpatrick has argued against a larger social spending bill, he has worked from the beginning to find a middle ground for the infrastructure legislation. The final bill includes $11.3 billion for highway projects, $1.6 billion for bridge replacement and repairs, about $2.8 billion for public transportation and $1.4 billion for water infrastructure for the Keystone State, all of which will benefit Fitzpatrick’s district in the suburbs of Philadelphia.