Bennet Senate committee hearing

In this file photo, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., speaks during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. 

All but one of the Republicans running for the Colorado U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Michael Bennet say they would have voted against the bipartisan infrastructure bill that passed the Senate this summer and got an OK late Friday from the House of Representatives.

Plugged by supporters as the most comprehensive infrastructure measure since the New Deal, the $1.2 trillion package of transportation and utility improvements is on its way to President Joe Biden's desk after House Democrats reached a deal to hold a vote later this month on a budget reconciliation bill estimated at $1.85 trillion spending over 10 years on elements of Biden's health care, climate and social agenda.

Bennet joined every Senate Democrat and 19 of the chamber's 50 Republicans voting for the infrastructure bill, which includes $550 billion in new spending and was negotiated by a bipartisan group of moderate lawmakers including Democrat John Hickenlooper, Colorado's other senator.

After the House passed the bill 228-206, Bennet applauded what he called the legislation's "historic, bipartisan investment" in the nation's infrastructure early Saturday in a statement. He also called on Congress to pass the companion reconciliation package, which has been slimmed down from the original $3.5 trillion proposal across months of negations driven by Democratic U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

“But our work isn’t finished," said Bennet, who is seeking a third term in next year's election. "We must also pass new investments to support kids and families, fight climate change, restore our Western forests and watersheds, and expand access to health care. At a time when many people have lost faith in Washington, we can remind Americans that our government can respond meaningfully to their urgent challenges.”

In addition to the Republican senators who supported the infrastructure bill this summer, 13 GOP House members voted for it Friday, while six of the most progressive House Democrats voted against it, arguing that an agreement among Democrats to take up the reconciliation package in coming weeks was insufficient.

Only one of Bennet's eight GOP challengers — Denver-area construction company owner and first-time candidate Joe O'Dea — said after the vote that he supports the infrastructure measure, though O'Dea also took a shot at Bennet while praising Manchin's "political courage" in a statement to Colorado Politics.

The other Republican primary candidates, most of whom hadn't previously stated their position on the infrastructure package, said they would have opposed the bill, with several pointing to the measure's price tag amid rising inflation and some condemning its links to the budget reconciliation package, which has been dubbed the Biden administration's "human infrastructure" bill.

O'Dea, however, singled out a bipartisan pair of senators for praise and applauded the bill as an economic driver, citing his own background running a construction company.

"Senate Republicans and a couple Democrats who love their country more than their party have played this just right," O'Dea said. "This is an actual infrastructure bill that’ll help working Americans, not the trillions of big government spending that Joe Biden and Michael Bennet wanted, and it doesn’t explode the national debt. If Michael Bennet had an ounce of the political courage that leaders like Rob Portman and Joe Manchin do, the country would be dramatically better for it.

"I build things for a living. Construction jobs put food on the table and pay the bills. This infrastructure bill will upgrade roads, rails, bridges and upgrade broadband — key for rural Colorado to compete with Denver. It’s time to double down on the working people of this country and this infrastructure bill helps America do just that."

Many of the other Republicans told Colorado Politics they would support a bill limited to "common sense" or "real" infrastructure spending. Conservative firebrand state Rep. Ron Hanks, R-Cañon City, who claims the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump, however, made clear his outright opposition.

"This federal govt is irresponsible, tyrannical, and weaponized against American citizens," Hanks told Colorado Politics in a text message. "No bill should be passed until govt once again has the Consent of the Governed."

Olympian and former Republican Party official Eli Bremer said he couldn't support an infrastructure bill that clears the way for a deal on the Democratic-led budget reconciliation package.

"Voting for the bipartisan infrastructure bill would allow the Democrats to pass their partisan, socialist spending 'infrastructure' bill which has trillions of dollars for Democrat pet projects," Bremer said in an email.

"I support common sense infrastructure spending, but when the ramifications of a yes vote mean another $4 trillion in spending, I could not, in good conscious, subject taxpayers and working families to the inflation and increase in nation debt."

Former Fort Collins City Councilman Gino Campana, a developer and restaurant owner, gave the infrastructure bill a solid thumbs down in a statement to Colorado Politics.

“Absolutely not," Campana said. "Middle class Colorado families are paying more for groceries, gas and housing. Michael Bennet and Joe Biden’s solution? Print more money. The government can not spend our way to prosperity.”

Erik Aadland, a former oil and gas company executive and a first-time candidate, cited economic concerns in a statement.

"I would not have voted for it. Of course, I support the funding of infrastructure, but this legislation still contains too much pork, adding $256 billion to the deficit over the next 10 years," Aadland said. "The government is writing checks we cannot cash and it’s reflected in the devaluation of the dollar, skyrocketing inflation and the rapidly ascending costs of essentials."

Added Aadland: "Biden said the measure would pay for itself, but that is simply not true. Americans — and Coloradans — will be picking up the tab when the economy is already taxed to the the brink. We must reenergize the economy now and postpone massive spending packages indefinitely."

Former conservative talk radio host Deborah Flora told Colorado Politics she's opposed to the infrastructure bill because of its connection to the budget reconciliation measure.

Said Flora: “This bill morphed into a bloated spending package and is now explicitly linked to an extreme social agenda, including hiring 87,000 more IRS agents to further invade the lives of citizens. The combined billions of dollars that Biden and Bennet want to spend will bankrupt future generations. I definitely support real infrastructure spending but not this irresponsible government overreach.”

Former congressional candidate Peter Yu said he didn't believe the infrastructure bill's spending was prudent.

"I would not have voted for this new spending bill last August," Yu said in an email. "With our country's spending and national debt accelerating at levels that are unsustainable, and inflation at a 30-year high, it is not appropriate to move forward with another new $1.2 trillion spending bill."

Candidate Juli Henry, an Army veteran and nonprofit executive, said in text messages that she would have supported the bill if it had been devoted to "true infrastructure" but added after reviewing the final legislation, "No, I would not have voted for the bill."

It isn't the first time O'Dea, who joined the primary in early October, has stood apart from the pack of Republicans hoping to deny Bennet another term.

In 2010, when Bennet was running for his first full term — after being appointed to the seat a year earlier — O'Dea donated $500 to Bennet's campaign, one of numerous contributions he made to Democratic candidates over the years. "Joe pours concrete and gives everyone a chance," an advisor told Colorado Politics, which was first to report the Bennet contribution, last month. "2010 Bennet wouldn’t recognize the 2021 Michael Bennet who votes with Joe Biden 100% of the time."

Asked what's changed since 2010, when Bennet was voting 98.4% of the time with then-President Barack Obama, according to one measure and provided the crucial vote to pass the Affordable Care Act, an O'Dea advisor said the campaign would stick with its original statement, noting that one could conclude Bennet didn't live up to his promise to be a different kind of Democrat.

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