Even as President Trump looks to reduce or freeze spending for next year, he is also reportedly interested in a big, bold and expensive new infrastructure plan. Axios’s Jonathan Swan reports that Trump told House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) last month that he wants to spend upwards of $2 trillion building infrastructure on a grand scale all across the country.
That’s a huge increase from an earlier Trump administration proposal, which called for roughly $200 billion in federal funding, intended to seed more than $1 trillion in spending by private-public partnerships. But Trump reportedly dislikes that idea, dismissing it as “Gary’s plan” in reference to his former economic advisor, Gary Cohn.
The problem, Swan says, is that Trump’s “own party won’t let him” spend the money required to build at the Eisenhower-esque scale he wants, due to Republicans’ aversion to deficit spending and perennial refusal to raise taxes.
Democrats See an Opportunity
Along with other leading Democrats, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (NY) are scheduled to meet with Trump Tuesday to discuss a bipartisan infrastructure package. In a letter to Trump Monday ahead of the meeting, Pelosi and Schumer said that infrastructure is a priority for both parties and that they believe “there are significant majorities in both the House and Senate “ ready to act on the issue.
The Democratic leaders outlined their three priorities for an infrastructure bill:
1. It would need to be big – and paid for. In order to address “massive” unmet infrastructure needs, Pelosi and Schumer said that the plan would need to produce “substantial, new and real revenue.” They added that they looked forward to hearing Trump’s idea on how to pay for a “big and bold” package.
2. It should address a broad range of issues, including clean energy, climate change and housing. Pelosi and Schumer said the plan should “go beyond transportation” to address “broadband, water, energy, schools, housing and other initiatives,” as well as “resiliency and risk mitigation of our current infrastructure to deal with climate change.”
3. It should create millions of jobs. “A big and bold infrastructure plan must have strong Buy America, labor, and women, veteran and minority-owned business protections in any package,” Pelosi and Schumer wrote.
The biggest problem facing any infrastructure bill is cost. While Democrats have not yet defined an explicit top line, The Washington Post’s Mike DeBonis said that $1 trillion is seen as “a bare minimum” at this point.
Politico’s Heather Caygle says that Schumer wants Trump to roll back some of the Republican tax cuts to help pay for infrastructure and won’t agree to raise the gas tax unless Trump agrees to reverse some of the 2017 cuts. But this seems like a potential deal killer, since it is “unlikely Trump would agree to renegotiate his major legislative achievement — leaving party leaders without a clear way to pay for any bipartisan infrastructure deal,” Caygle writes.
Another potential problem: The meeting will include about a dozen Democratic lawmakers, including Neal, who is actively pursuing Trump’s tax returns. Don’t be surprised if the topic of conversation wanders away from roads and bridges and toward the issues Trump cares about most. “Look, the primary purpose of that meeting is to discuss infrastructure, but I certainly wouldn’t be surprised at all if immigration comes up,” press secretary Sarah Sanders said Monday on Fox News.