Democrats to unveil infrastructure plan with eye on 2020 elections

Democrats to unveil infrastructure plan with eye on 2020 elections
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House Democrats plan to unveil a framework for infrastructure legislation on Wednesday as they seek to move past impeachment to tout accomplishments for their 2020 campaign. 

Top Democrats insist that they want to try to work with the White House again on fixing America’s roads, bridges and other projects, even as the rollout of their plan will come while the Senate is still in the midst of an impeachment trial of President TrumpDonald John TrumpFederal plan to contain Washington protests employs 7,600 personnel: report GOP Rep calls on primary opponent to condemn campaign surrogate's racist video Tennessee court rules all registered voters can obtain mail-in ballots due to COVID-19 MORE where partisanship is running high. 

The thorny question of how to pay for infrastructure spending also still remains after it doomed the short-lived bipartisan talks with the White House last year, which acrimoniously collapsed amid Democrats' investigations into the president.

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Democrats maintain that they share a mutual interest with Trump to pursue an issue that they both campaigned on.

They also point to the recent bipartisan success passing Trump’s revised North American trade pact as evidence that it’s possible to notch legislative deals with the White House even amid impeachment.

Wednesday’s rollout, to be led by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazioPeter Anthony DeFazioOvernight Energy: 'Gutted' Interior agency moves out West | House Dems roll out 0B green infrastructure bill | Court says EPA must update its offshore oil spill response plan House Democrats roll out 0B green transportation infrastructure bill Democrats to probe Trump's replacement of top Transportation Dept. watchdog MORE (D-Ore.), is only expected to be a framework of proposals rather than formal legislative text.

DeFazio plans to first unveil the framework at a closed-door Democratic caucus meeting on Wednesday morning. And in the early afternoon, the House Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing on ways to pay for infrastructure investments.

But even if bipartisan infrastructure talks once again go nowhere, House Democrats still want to lay down a marker for their election-year platform.

“Infrastructure has been near the top of everybody's list — the president's, Congress, the public — and this will show that we can put in place that we're pushing forward on a 21st [century] infrastructure proposal,” DeFazio said.

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At the same time, they still bear scars from last spring when the infrastructure talks with the White House crumbled in spectacular fashion.

Trump, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi: 'Scary' to see uniformed troops on steps of Lincoln Memorial Pelosi: Democrats to unveil sweeping criminal justice proposal Monday Pelosi demands Trump clarify deployment of unidentified law enforcement in DC MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerGOP lawmaker calls on Senate to confirm Michael Pack as head of US media agency McConnell blocks resolution condemning Trump over treatment of protesters House Democrat demands answers from Secret Service about role breaking up White House protests MORE (D-N.Y.) initially agreed last April to pursue a $2 trillion package for infrastructure investments. But they put off deciding on how to afford the price tag at the time.

Any hope for a deal dissolved at their next meeting three weeks later. After Pelosi said hours before the meeting that the president was “engaged in a cover-up,” Trump cut off their talks and said that he wouldn’t work with Democrats while they investigated him.

At the time, Pelosi was still resisting calls for impeaching Trump from members of her caucus after the release of former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE’s report on Russian election interference.

Since then, House Democrats formally launched an investigation into Trump’s attempts to pressure the Ukrainian government to open probes into his political opponents and passed two articles of impeachment.

And on top of that, both sides are gearing up for an election year.

But even with the rocky legislative track record between Trump and Democrats, they still insist there’s potential for a deal.

“Whether it's an election year or not, I don't have much confidence that this president is going to work constructively with us,” said House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerPelosi: Democrats to unveil sweeping criminal justice proposal Monday Calls for police reform sparks divisions in Congress Hoyer wins Maryland House primary MORE (D-Md.), who attended both meetings between Democratic leaders and Trump on infrastructure last year. 

“In this instance, however ... the president articulated policies during the course of the election and since the election very close to the policies that we have enunciated. One would think in that context, we could come to an agreement, a compromise,” he said.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard NealRichard Edmund NealExpanding tax credit for businesses retaining workers gains bipartisan support House Democrats press Treasury on debit cards used for coronavirus relief payments House Democrats' bill would create a second round of direct coronavirus relief payments MORE (D-Mass.) is aiming to meet with Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: BIO's Michelle McMurry-Heath says 400 projects started in 16 weeks in biotech firms to fight virus, pandemic unemployment total tops 43 million IRS faces obstacles with remaining stimulus checks On The Money: GOP turning against new round of ,200 rebate checks | Millions of Americans frustrated by delayed unemployment checks | Senate votes to give coronavirus relief program more flexibility MORE this week to discuss rekindling infrastructure talks with the Trump administration. A spokeswoman for Neal said Tuesday that the meeting had not been formally scheduled yet but was in the works.

“The president needs it and we want it,” Neal said. “I think that the motivations on both sides are to get something big done. All you have to do is take a look at our roadways and highways, what's happened at our airports, it's an embarrassment.”

But the devil is in the details. 

Trump reportedly said in 2018 that he was open to a 25-cent increase in the gas tax, which has not been raised in more than two decades, to help pay for infrastructure investments.

But Schumer indicated last year that he wouldn't support a gas tax hike unless Trump agreed to roll back some of the tax cuts in the 2017 tax overhaul. 

GOP lawmakers, meanwhile, shot down the idea of tax increases.

DeFazio’s framework is not expected to include proposals for how to fund the infrastructure investments. That task will fall to Democratic leaders and the Ways and Means Committee.

“I'm giving them a bill, they gotta figure out how to pay,” DeFazio said.

And aside from disagreements over funding, relations between Trump and Democrats have become all the more strained amid impeachment.

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As Neal pointed to the bipartisan deal on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement last month as an example of Democrats successfully working with the Trump administration, he also confirmed that the White House didn’t invite him to the signing ceremony scheduled for Wednesday.

That’s despite Neal’s role leading the negotiations on behalf of House Democrats.

“I'm not offended,” Neal insisted. But he added: “I think it's fair to say that's our bill — and within our, my bill — that they're gonna sign tomorrow, my legislation. “

“You can be the lead negotiator and not get invited to the signing. You think that's strange now?” Neal said, laughing.