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GOP backers of bill can make it a badge

U.S. Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-Syosset) was among 13

U.S. Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-Syosset) was among 13 members of the House minority who crossed over and supported the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. Credit: Marcus Santos

For their own good, you’d think the House Republicans from New York who voted for this big new Democratic infrastructure bill would gladly accept all the sour attacks from former President Donald Trump and a few performance artists in their caucus.

Maybe they will. Embracing or ignoring the nasty partisan noise might be just the right play for GOPers in districts with substantive Democratic enrollment. What at one time might have been a noncontroversial vote for projects and spending in their home states and districts offers them a zero-cost moment to boast of their independence.

Something like "My district over my party!" could be usefully printed on next year’s reelection literature for Reps. Andrew Garbarino (R-Bayport), or Nicole Malliotakis (R-Staten Island), or John Katko (R-Syracuse).

These aren't the old days, when federal funds for roads, bridges, sewers, trains, and other municipal improvements for the district were standard currency for bipartisan deals that made pols look good and got tangible things done.

But for years now in Washington, defying the other party's president has taken priority.

Only 13 members of the House minority crossed over and supported the once-in-a-lifetime, 2,700-page $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. Four of them were from this big, blue state.

Maybe the four can market themselves as newly minted mavericks, a party-bucking parallel of the six progressives, including New York City Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jamaal Bowman, who voted "No" on the bill. They helped prod their party's Speaker Nancy Pelosi to rely on other GOP votes to push the infrastructure plan through. Neither AOC nor Bowman face serious opposition at the polls next November.

So it is hard to believe any breakaway House members of either party are about to be punished for their infrastructure votes in any real way.

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) voted with his red-led caucus against the infrastructure bill, as did fellow Republicans Elise Stefanik, Claudia Tenney and Chris Jacobs from upstate.

Would Zeldin's former Republican colleague, Rep. Peter King, have voted "no" in the same situation? Those two always showed different views of the pragmatic. But there is something extraordinary about seeing Zeldin, who's running for governor, oppose legislation that's supposed to free up a reported $2.6 billion combined for the LIRR and Metro-North.

Regardless, the money will be there to assist the state's transit needs, no matter who becomes governor in 2023.

Trump — who may or may not still lord it over the Republican Party — issued one of his you're-nothing-without-me statements after the 228-206 House vote: "All Republicans who voted for Democrat longevity should be ashamed of themselves, in particular (Senate Minority Leader) Mitch McConnell, for granting a two month stay which allowed the Democrats time to work things out at our Country's, and the Republican Party's, expense!"

Implicit in the bellyaching is that President Joe Biden got a big win here.

Despite strong chances of the House reverting to a Republican majority next year, some members have other incentives to appear independent of their caucus and party. One is the party leadership's refusal to cooperate in probing the violent Jan. 6 pro-Trump riot at the Capitol.

Only in 2021 would 13 Republican crossovers find themselves at the center of a public storm for supporting this something-for-everyone Biden bill.

Not to spoil the drama, but for most people, this vote was far less about betrayal or boldness than what gets built and when.

Columnist Dan Janison's opinions are his own.