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Wisconsin congressmen on polar ends of infrastructure bill debate


GREEN LAKE (WKOW) -- It was fitting a town hall Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-Fond du Lac) held Wednesday morning was along a county highway. Infrastructure is the topic keeping senators in Washington and House members on alert for a possible call to return to the Capitol.

While lawmakers discuss the $1 trillion infrastructure bill, two members of Wisconsin's delegation are on polar ends of the debate.

Grothman said he felt not nearly enough of the $550 billion bipartisan infrastructure bill, which 17 Senate Republicans voted to advance onto debate, contained funding specifically for roads and bridges. About $110 billion is dedicated to roads, bridges, and other major projects.

"It surprises me, given that the vast amount of travel in this country is done on highways, that only a fifth of it is for roads and bridges," Grothman said.

Grothman told the crowd of about 40 people outside the Brooklyn Town Hall, disagreements from both the left and right wings threatened the bill; conservative lawmakers believed the infrastructure bill alone was too hefty and wasteful while progressives are pushing for any vote on the $1 trillion infrastructure deal to be packaged with a vote committing $3.5 trillion to "human infrastructure," like health care and child care.

"A lot of the human infrastructure - expanding Medicare to include vision, dental, and hearing, to do a lot of other things is in that [$3.5 trillion bill]," said Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison) during a press conference Tuesday.

Pocan is among the most liberal members in Congress who've been saying the infrastructure bill needs to be accompanied by the larger spending package, which Democrats would seek to pass through reconciliation - a measure reserved for spending bills that only requires 50 votes in the Senate instead of the usual 60.

"We have said very clearly, Speaker Pelosi and many of us, including myself, that we want to vote on them together," Pocan said. "There's not a lot of trust in Congress. We want to make sure they go together and I think that's the goal we have."

Grothman bristled at the idea of committing another $3.5 trillion to items that are not traditional infrastructure, saying the level of borrowing and money-printing involved in such a deal would create huge debt problems down the line and inflame inflation concerns in the short-term.

"That is way too much money," Grothman said. "People don't realize, your eyes begin to glaze over - a million, a billion, a trillion. A trillion dollars by itself is almost $3,000 for every man, woman, and child."