weather icon Clear

Trump, Dems begin work on $2T infrastructure package

Updated April 30, 2019 - 4:17 pm


President Donald Trump met with Democratic congressional leaders Tuesday morning where the two sides carved out the beginnings of an infrastructure package with a price tag of $2 trillion.

After the 90-minute meeting, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who had requested the meeting, told reporters both sides agreed the infrastructure package would be “big and bold.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said that Trump agreed to meet again in three weeks, at which time the president would “present his ideas” on how to fund the measure. Without the president’s imprimatur, Schumer noted, “it’ll be very hard to get the Senate to go along.”

The White House confirmed the mutual spirit of good will when Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement, “The United States has not come even close to properly investing in infrastructure for many years, foolishly prioritizing the interests of other countries over our own. We have to invest in this country’s future and bring our infrastructure to a level better than it has ever been before.”

The amount of money is so big, Adie Tomer of the Brookings Institution told the Review-Journal, “What they unwittingly announced today is another New Deal, like FDR’s New Deal, that’s how big this would be.”

While Democrats have been pushing for a rollback of parts of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which Trump signed in 2017, or an increase in the gas tax or a combination of the two, the White House generally has balked at raising taxes.

According to the Center for a Responsible Federal Budget, the federal gas tax has not been raised since 1993 – which means that, adjusted for inflation, it is almost 40 percent lower than it was. If the gas tax had been indexed for inflation, it would be 10 to 15 cents per gallon higher than today.

Raising the gas tax can’t pay for that supersize price tag, Tomer offered, because of federal restrictions on how the money is spent.

Spending plan ‘pro-growth’

The deficit-wary Center for a Responsible Federal Budget believes that the nation’s crumbling infrastructure is in such need of repair that spending now and paying for it later still could be “pro-growth” – although not funding these improvements could “shrink the economy.”

Last year Trump proposed a package that would have provided $200 billion in seed money for what the administration said would spur as much as $1.5 trillion in infrastructure investment thanks to streamlined permitting process. Trump was not particularly enthusiastic about the proposal, which went nowhere.

Pelosi stressed that Democrats came to the White House “to do something for the American people,” not criticize Trump.

It was a meeting that caused the political class to hold its breath to see if Trump would invite cameras – as he did before a contentious December face-off during which he told “Chuck and Nancy” that he would be “proud to shut down the government for border security.” There was also the potential that Trump would walk out on the meeting – as he did in January after Democrats said they would not fund his beloved border wall.

From all appearances, the Cabinet Room sit-down, also attended by five other House and Senate Democrats, lacked both drama and rancor. Democrats left smiling. The White House sent out a nice statement afterward.

“In previous meetings the president has said, if these investigations continue, I can’t work with you,” Schumer told reporters. “He didn’t bring it up. I believe that we can do both at once.” Both sides can come up with some good ideas about infrastructure, Schumer noted, “and the House and the Senate can proceed in its oversight responsibilities. The two are not mutually exclusive and we are glad he didn’t make it that way.”

On the day before the meeting, Pelosi and Schumer sent Trump a letter outlining Democrats’ goals – that the package should go beyond transportation by funding clean energy, broadband, water, schools and housing. The letter also called for protections for labor, women, veterans and minority-owned businesses.

‘Legislate or litigate’

Across the country at a Milken Institute conference in Los Angeles, White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said he foresaw the talks breaking down over the Republicans’ desire to change environmental laws to speed up the permit process for big projects and Democrats’ intent to hold multiple investigations, perhaps impeachment hearings, against Trump.

“They either have to choose to legislate or litigate,” Mulvaney said of Democrats. “You can’t have it both ways.”

Mulvaney also said he thought the United States Mexico Canada Agreement treaty, which Trump negotiated with Mexico and Canada to succeed NAFTA, has a better chance of passing than an infrastructure package.

Last year, Senate Democrats presented a $1 trillion, 10-year jobs and infrastructure package that went nowhere. Schumer confessed that Democrats had started negotiating with a lower figure, but “even the president was eager to push it up to $2 trillion.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell noted that “his roommate” – wife Elaine Chao, Trump’s Transportation Secretary – was in the room, as were other members of the Trump inner circle, but no Republican senators attended the event. McConnell also said that funding the projects by reducing the 2017 tax cuts was a “non-starter” unlikely to win support from Senate Republicans.

Asked if the measure is likely to be passed, Brookings’ Tomer responded, “The diplomatic answer is that there are many, many more hurdles to overcome which have been difficult in past efforts, both on the Hill” and for presidents. Between the huge amount of money and gigantic list of programs, the optimistic answer, he added, is, “This starts the large slog of rebuilding public trust.”

Contact Debra J. Saunders at dsaunders@reviewjournal.com or at 202-662-7391. Follow @DebraJSaunders on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
Trumps Strength is also a Weakness - Video
One of Donald Trump’s greatest strengths — his ability to shape national narratives — is also a great weakness.
Tax the Rich Bus Tour makes a stop in Las Vegas - Video
The Tax the Rich Bus has stopped in Las Vegas as part of its summer tour. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ - Video
Assembly Woman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ to bring the community together to hear about the candidates up for election and for people to gather and have fun.
Democrat Virtual Caucus - Video
Elizabeth Warren visits Las Vegas
Senator Elizabeth Warren made a campaign stop at the East Las Vegas Community Center on Tuesday July 2, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Aaron Ford Speaks About Bill AB431
AB431 is a bill sponsored by Nevada Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson to restore the right to vote for formerly incarcerated individuals. Attorney General Aaron Ford spoke at the AM&E Church in North Las Vegas about the bill, on Monday, July 1, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Right Take: Biden's Racially Questionable Comments
Joe Biden has uttered racially charged statements for years. Now that he’s the frontrunner for the Democrat presidential nomination, he may finally face prolonged scrutiny for them.
Christopher Rufo Discusses Homelessness In The USA - VIDEO
Christopher Rufo discusses homelessness in the United States and how politicians can work to improve conditions for those with drug addictions.
Clark County 2019 Election Results - Video
The 2019 Elections wrap up in Clark County including an upset in the Boulder City Mayor race.
Olivia Diaz talks about her win in Ward 3 - VIDEO
Las Vegas City Councilwoman-elect Olivia Diaz talks about her election win in Ward 3 and what lies ahead for her.
Greene discusses Read by 3 and Opportunity Scholarships - VIDEO
The Nevada Legislative Session is over and the results are mixed for Nevada students, according to Tom Greene, Senior regional legislative director, Excel in Ed in Action.
Bernie Sanders visits Las Vegas
Sen. Bernie Sanders made a stop at Roy W. Martin middle school on Thursday, during his campaign trail.
Kamala Harris campaigns in Las Vegas
Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris castigated President Donald Trump’s merit-based immigration plan, saying it was “short-sighted” and overlooked the cultural significance of family, during a campaign stop in Las Vegas. “We cannot allow people to start parsing and pointing fingers and creating hierarchies among immigrants,” Harris told Asian Pacific Islander leaders at a Chinatown restaurant, one of two appearances she made Thursday.
The Right Take New Education Funding Plan - VIDEO
On Monday, Senate Education Committee chair Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, released a new education funding formula. For years, many Democrat politicians have criticized the current education funding formula, called the Nevada Plan. They claim it’s old and outdated. Their biggest beef is that it doesn’t allocate more money for students who are English Language Learners or live in poverty. The theory is that it’s harder to educate those students and so they need additional services, which costs additional money.
Kamala Harris campaigns in Nevada
California Senator Kamala Harris meets with One APIA Nevada, a nonprofit organization that advocates for policies empowering Asian Pacific Islander Nevadans. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ben Carson talks housing (Audio only)
Ben Carson discusses housing with the Review-Journal editorial board on Thursday. (Audio only)
Ben Carson visits the RJ (Full Audio Only)
Ben Carson discusses housing with the Review-Journal editorial board on Thursday. (Audio only)
Former Vice President Joe Biden campaigns in Nevada
After campaigning at the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 16 in Henderson, former Vice President Joe Biden spoke with the Review-Journal.
Student serenades Mayor Carolyn Goodman at swearing in
Students from the school she founded, The Meadows School, serenaded Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman during a swearing in ceremony for her third and final term. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Al Gore Speaks At UNLV About Climate Change - Video
Former Vice President of the United States Al Gore talks to an audience at UNLV about the effects of Climate change and how to switch to renewable sources of energy.
Forum on Wages and Working People Highlights - VIDEO
Presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren, Beto O'Rourke, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Julian Castro, and John Hickenlooper speak in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Nevada Politics Today Valerie Weber - VIDEO
Valerie Weber sits down with Victor Joecks to discuss her policies and why she is running for Ward 2 of the Las Vegas City Council.
Cory Booker speaks at UNLV
US Senator Cory Booker speaks at UNLV during a Young Democrats meet and greet on Thursday, April 18, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Turkey ousted from US fighter program for buying Russian missiles

WASHINGTON — In a major break with a longtime ally, the Trump administration on Wednesday said Turkey is being kicked out of an American-led fighter aircraft program because it is buying a Russian air defense system that would aid Russian intelligence.

Michael Cohen campaign finance probe over, prosecutors say

The disclosure in a court filing Wednesday is part of a legal fight over whether to unseal search warrant materials dealing with the investigation.

GOP Sen. Rand Paul blocks bill to boost 9/11 victims fund

A Republican senator has blocked a bipartisan bill that would ensure a victims’ compensation fund for theSept. 11 attacks never runs out of money.

House committee OKs bill by Titus for airport signs

The House Homeland Security Committee approved a bill by Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., Wednesday to translate airport signs into multiple languages to assist tourists and others who don’t speak English.

Rumors, confusion, fear reign on Mexico border with new US policy

Asylum-seekers gathered in Nuevo Laredo grapple to understand what a new U.S. policy that all but eliminates refuge claims by Central Americans and many others meant for their bids to find a better life in America.

Clark County official presses Metro for answers about ICE cooperation

While Clark County Commissioners approved 40 supplemental positions for two understaffed jails Tuesday, Commissioner Justin Jones indicated his future support for more hires will be tied to the Metropolitan Police Department clarifying its role in immigration detention.