House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer met with President Trump on Tuesday and discussed a bill to fix and modernize the country’s infrastructure, including major roadways, airports, and transit overhauls.
As USA Today reports, this was the first major effort since Democrats won back their majority in the House to work with Trump to pass meaningful legislation.
The meeting came amid Democratic-led House efforts to look into Trump’s personal and business finances (and Democratic subpoenas for this information), Democratic calls to indict the president on obstruction of justice calls, and as Democratic presidential candidates are continuing to ramp up their rhetoric against Trump.
USA Today reports:
Trump and Democratic lawmakers have flirted with a bipartisan infrastructure deal since the president took office, but talks have stalled around how to pay for the trillion-dollar-plus investment needed to make a dent in modernizing the nation’s highways, transit systems and airports. And that was before congressional subpoenas started flying.
“The current climate seems less than optimal for reaching a consensus,” said D.J. Gribbin, a former assistant to the president on infrastructure issues, but he said he was nevertheless encouraged that an initial meeting is taking place.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer will arrive at the White House to discuss infrastructure as lawmakers are simultaneously pursuing the president’s tax returns and sparring with the administration over the testimony of top officials, including Attorney General William Barr. House Democrats want to press Barr this week on the Mueller report and his conclusion that it cleared Trump of wrongdoing.
The ongoing investigations have exacerbated tensions between the White House and the Democratic House majority, obscuring the path forward on most policy fronts. That relationship is likely to become even more tenuous as the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination heats up.
According to Politico, President Trump, Pelosi, and Schumer agreed to a $2 trillion price tag, but have not yet reached an agreement on how to pay for it.
House and Senate Democrats nearly opposed President Trump at every turn during the first two years of his administration, nearly costing him a United States Supreme Court nominee.
White House spokesman Judd Deere remarked that Pelosi and company failed to accomplish anything within their first 100 days in power. Now that they have a seat at the negotiations, they will have to drop their resist-at-all-costs posture to try and salvage a legislative victory.
“What has the new Democratic majority in the House accomplished in its first 100 days?” Deere asked. “Nothing. Democrats need to decide if they want to continue their obsession with obstructing this president, or will they work with him to address the real issues impacting everyday Americans.”
Tuesday marks the first meeting of what could be a lengthy process to secure an infrastructure bill.
From USA Today:
While there is broad bipartisan agreement on the need to fix the nation’s infrastructure there is little consensus on how to pay for it, with lawmakers from both parties hesitant to raise the 18.4 cent per gallon federal tax on gasoline. Trump initially proposed relying on private investment for much of that money, an idea that faced criticism in Congress.
In a letter Monday ahead of the meeting, Pelosi and Schumer said any agreement would require “substantial, new and real revenue,” but they offered no specific plan.
“As you know, the issue of infrastructure is a bipartisan congressional priority and we believe there are significant majorities in both the House and Senate to take action on the issue,” Pelosi and Schumer wrote.
The Democrats called for a bipartisan infrastructure deal to also include clean “energy and resiliency priorities” and said it should go beyond transportation to include “broadband, water, energy, schools, housing and other initiatives.”
A senior Trump economic adviser said the administration is interested in hearing ideas but said the White House would not bring specific proposals to the table.
“We would like this to be bipartisan,” Larry Kudlow, a top economic adviser, told reporters. “It’s an important topic but, no, we’re not going to come in and hammer down anything. We want to hear what they have to say.”