Dems unveil infrastructure plan, reach out to Trump

Dems unveil infrastructure plan, reach out to Trump
© Greg Nash
Senate Democrats on Tuesday unveiled a $1 trillion infrastructure plan in an opening bid to swing President Trump to their side ahead of one of the biggest debates of the year.
 
Democrats led by Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer wants investigation into Chinese-designed New York subway cars Getting serious about infrastructure Schumer calls on McConnell to hold vote on Equality Act MORE (N.Y.) are calling for a $1 trillion investment over the next decade they claim will create 15 million jobs.
 
The plan would provide billions of dollars in funding for road, bridge and sewer improvements, expanded broadband internet access in rural areas, railroad repair, public school construction and expanded port and waterway infrastructure.
 
It includes a $200 billion “vital infrastructure fund” that would finance major projects such as rail lines and tunnels connecting New York City and New Jersey.
 
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Also included are $210 billion to repair “crumbling” roads and bridges, $180 billion for rail and bus transit, $75 billion for school construction, $70 billion for port, waterway and airport improvement and $100 billion for energy infrastructure.
 
Trump called for a massive $1 trillion investment in infrastructure during his campaign — substantially larger than what Democrat Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe Memo: Trump faces steep climb to reelection What the Mueller report tells us about Putin, Russia and Trump's election Steve Bullock puts Citizens United decision at center of presidential push MORE proposed — but left vague many of the details of what he had in mind.
 
“That is something that congressional Democrats have sought for years, but congressional Republicans have stymied us at every turn,” Schumer said at a press conference Tuesday.
 
“We’re challenging President Trump to support our plan. He campaigned on a promise of bigger and better infrastructure. This plan is the way to make it happen,” he added. 
 
He was joined by Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Memo: Trump faces steep climb to reelection California Democrats face crisis of credibility after lawsuits Fox's Brit Hume fires back at Trump's criticism of the channel MORE (I-Vt.), Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperOvernight Energy: EPA watchdog finds Pruitt spent 4K on 'excessive' travel | Agency defends Pruitt expenses | Lawmakers push EPA to recover money | Inslee proposes spending T for green jobs Lawmakers take EPA head to task for refusing to demand Pruitt repay travel expenses Dems request investigation of lobbyist-turned-EPA employee who met with former boss MORE (D-Del.), Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonRepublicans amp up attacks on Tlaib's Holocaust comments The muscle for digital payment Rubio says hackers penetrated Florida elections systems MORE (D-Fla.) and Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellDon't revive logging in national forests Top Finance Dem offers bill to help those repaying student loans save for retirement Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg meets with senators on privacy MORE (D-Wash.) in unveiling the proposal.
 
The lawmakers said they would push for environmental and labor protections to be included in the package.
 
Trump and Schumer discussed infrastructure investment as an area of shared interest during a meeting at the White House on Monday afternoon.
 
Schumer told reporters Tuesday that the new president “seems open to a bill this large.”
 
But Schumer advised him that if he wants the bill to pass, he will have to press Republican leaders and rank-and-file members who are worried about the impact on the deficit to support it.
 
Trump’s campaign recommended “leverag[ing] new revenues” and forming public–private partnerships to incentivize the investments in transportation, clean water, a modern electrical grid and security infrastructure. 
 
A campaign position paper reported on by Fortune magazine estimated that $167 billion in private investment could be used to leverage a $1 trillion infrastructure plan that would spare taxpayers from bearing any of the burden.
 
Clinton pushed a $250 billion, five-year plan during her campaign.
 
Republicans in Congress have embraced the idea of creating tax breaks to spur private infrastructure investment and have warned against any plan that would require massive allocations of federal dollars.
 
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget GOP presses Trump to make a deal on spending Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — McConnell, Kaine offer bill to raise tobacco buying age to 21 | Measles outbreak spreads to 24 states | Pro-ObamaCare group launches ad blitz to protect Dems MORE (R-Ky.) told reporters last month the level of the national debt “is dangerous and unacceptable” and pledged to oppose anything resembling the massive infrastructure spending bill President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaFeehery: A whole new season of 'Game of Thrones' Mercury rollback is a direct threat to our children's health Lightfoot takes office as Chicago's first black woman mayor MORE enacted in his first year in office.
 
“What I hope we will clearly avoid, and I’m confident we will, is a trillion-dollar stimulus,” he said.
 
McConnell at Monday’s meeting at the White House reiterated his view that any package considered by Congress this year needs to be paid for and not add to the deficit.  
 
Schumer, however, is not interested in only cutting taxes to help private companies build toll roads.
 
“We will not support tax credits for developers,” he declared Tuesday.
 
He wants a significant upfront investment from the federal government, something more along the lines of traditional plans that helped build the nation’s highway system and mass transit systems around the country.
 
“That’s not the American tradition; ask Dwight D. Eisenhower,” Schumer said of using tax incentives to promote the creation of toll roads, referring to the nation’s 34th president, who oversaw the creation of the American interstate system.
 
Democrats such as Nelson say they wish they had gotten more investment money included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that passed in 2009.
 
“We definitely need an infrastructure bill,” Nelson told reporters, pointing to a need to refurbish Lake Okeechobee’s leak-prone dike.
 
Trump has called for a broad overhaul of the nation’s infrastructure and going well beyond the five-year, $305 billion highway bill Congress passed at the end of 2015.
 
He wants improvements in transportation infrastructure such as roads, bridges, tunnels, railroads, ports and waterways as well as improvements in energy infrastructure such as pipelines and coal export facilities.
 
Democrats have also endorsed spending more money on energy infrastructure.
 
Cantwell, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said the package should devote resources to building and improving energy transmission lines and shoring up cybersecurity.
 
- Updated at 1:41 p.m.