For months Nancy Mace knew this day would come. Pleasing her Trumpaholic base and her Democratic constituents was always going to be a high wire act. In the evenly-divided First Congressional District, this was her biggest challenge.
That day came on November 5 when she voted "No" on the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. With that vote, Mace fell off the high wire, in spectacular fashion.
When she ran for Congress in 2020, Mace made infrastructure funding one of her key issues. She talked about playing "catch up with our infrastructure needs."
"We all agree," she wrote on her campaign website, "it's time to fix our crumbling roads and bridges." She has also argued for spending on ports, broadband, and airports.
But when the time came for Mace to make good on that campaign promise she reneged. She refused to join 13 sensible Republicans who voted for the bill.
Why did she capitulate to her feckless minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, given that this vote will surely haunt her on the 2022 campaign trail?
In her embarrassingly brief and murky statement following the vote, Mace offered these weak justifications.
She said the bill was not bi-partisan. Nonsense. With 13 Republicans on board, it was a significant bi-partisan achievement. Those 13 Republican votes were necessary for its passage. In the Senate two months earlier, the bill received 19 Republican votes for passage. Senator Lindsey Graham voted for it and made clear how essential it was for South Carolina. This qualifies as a bi-partisan landslide.
Recently Mace told Fox News that the bill had "morphed into a socialist wish list." But members of the Progressive Squad in the Democratic Party also voted with Mace against the bill, proving it was hardly socialist. It was far too centrist for them. Rather, It was the legislation Mace campaigned for. Yet she voted thumbs down.
She complained the bill has all sorts of provisions that prove it is a Democratic Party wish list. But as for specifics, she points only to art and sculpture spending (of which I can find no mention in any media accounts), and $66 billion for Amtrak.
It is true that at one time President Biden had asked for $470 million for support of the arts. Even if this paltry amount did finally make its way into the bill, it would represent .04% of the spending. Did she really vote to kill the whole bill to save a rounding error in the package? Not likely. She just wanted to take a cheap shot at the arts, a topic true Trumpaholics love to hate.
As for Amtrak funding, this is also a "fish in a barrel" target for our Citadel marksman. Amtrak trains mainly serve the Boston to New York to Washington corridor. Mace suggests that South Carolinians ought not support those train-riding, Northeast liberals.
Even if South Carolinians wrongly believe we don't need mass transit, that is no reason to vote against high speed trains in the densely populated Northeast. We want Yankee dollars for our roads, ports, and bridges; they deserve high speed trains. It's called compromise.
Mace complains that Biden and Pelosi ought to repurpose unspent COVID funds for infrastructure spending. In fact, they did! Unspent money appropriated for Covid relief, the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program, the Paycheck Protection Program, and other initiatives will be spent on infrastructure. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that only $350 billion of infrastructure spending will be new, not the $1.2 trillion Mace uses as a political talking point.
Where Mace was particularly penny-wise and pound-foolish concerns the Veterans Administration.
To reduce the bill's price tag, President Biden cut $18 billion meant to modernize VA hospitals that are, on average, 47 years older than private hospitals. Veterans are one of Mace's most important constituencies, given the large population of vets in the Charleston area. Did she mention the absence of this money as a reason to vote against the bill? No. Did she lobby to get the money put back in? If so, she doesn't admit to it. Veterans organizations should be slamming her.
So here is a modest proposal suggested to me by a wise Democrat in Summerville.
When $110 billion for road and bridge repair, $65 billion to modernize the electric grid, $55 billion for safe drinking water, $25 billion for airports, $11 billion for road safety, and a lot more money starts to flow into South Carolina, we should only receive 25% of our share. Why? Because we have eight members in our House and Senate delegation in Washington. Of the eight, only Democrat Jim Clyburn in the House and Republican Lindsey Graham in the Senate voted for this bill. That is 25%. So that's what we would get in infrastructure money.
Would Mace have still voted "No" under these circumstances? Of course not.
Mace found the political tightrope bouncing dangerously when she voted to hold Steve Bannon in criminal contempt of Congress for refusing to answer its subpoena about the January 6 insurrection. This was the correct vote, but it upset the Trumpaholics. Now she has also alienated everyone who cares about infrastructure.
If you see Mace in Sarasota, Florida, she is probably attending Ringling Brothers Clown College, trying to regain her lost form on the high wire.