May 6, 2019

Have Democrats And The White House Reached An Agreement On Infrastructure?

Not quite, but President Donald Trump, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and U.S. Senate Minority Leader (D-N.Y.) last week took their first step toward a bipartisan infrastructure spending bill. On Tuesday, the three, and one dozen other Democrats, met at the White House and outlined a $2 trillion package. According to The New York Times, few other details other than the price tag were revealed, however.

It is clear what Democrats want. In a letter sent to the White House on Monday, Speaker Pelosi and Sen. Schumer outlined their basic principles for an infrastructure package. Notably, the letter called for “Buy America” provisions. (The Metals Service Center Institute, a North American trade group, has opposed these provisions in the past.)

It’s also clear what the business community wants. In a letter sent to the president and congressional leaders on April 29, the Metals Service Center institute joined with the U.S. Chamber of Congress and more than 300 other organizations to outline their principles for infrastructure reform.

The letter said a bill must:

  • Address the current crisis and invest in the future;
  • Be funded with real money, not gimmicks;
  • It must provide the vision and the bridge to ensure that transportation in five, 10 or 20 years has an appropriate system of user fees and funding that matches the vehicles and society of that future;
  • Provide resiliency of our transportation networks; and
  • Support the jobs of today and the future with funding and programs to match.

In order for the White House-Democratic outline to make it through Congress, the president and speaker will have to engage Republicans on Capitol Hill as well and, according to The Washington Post, GOP lawmakers are not happy with the content of the outline, or how much it will cost. Indeed, on Friday, President Trump’s own chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, indicated he thought $2 trillion was too much, arguing it would be “difficult to pay any infrastructure bill,” much less one of that caliber.

Members of the Democratic party also are at adds about how to pay for increased infrastructure spending. U.S. House Transportation Committee Chair Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) has said he wants to raise the federal gas tax to fund the plan while Sen. Schumer wants to repeal some of the tax cuts that were passed in 2017. (Republicans, including the president, will view that idea as a nonstarter. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said as much later in the week. Meanwhile, some Republicans are on board with increasing the gas tax.)

The outline supported by the White House and Democrats is just that – a broad agreement. Stay tuned to Connecting the Dots as this story develops.