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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.
 
 
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 ClintonHow Democrats can defy the odds in 2022 Close the avenues of foreign meddling Pelosi planned on retiring until Trump won election: report 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 SandersAmazon workers have spoken — are progressives listening? What's really behind Joe Biden's far-left swing? It's time to declare a national climate emergency MORE (I-Vt.), Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperFive reasons why US faces chronic crisis at border Appeals court agrees to pause lawsuit over Trump-era emissions rule Five things to watch on Biden infrastructure plan MORE (D-Del.), Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonWhy does Rep. Johnson oppose NASA's commercial human landing system? Trump hands Rubio coveted reelection endorsement in Florida Overnight Defense: Top House Armed Services Republican talks National Guard at Capitol, Afghanistan, more | Pentagon chief visits Afghanistan amid administration's review | Saudis propose Yemen ceasefire MORE (D-Fla.) and Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellAgainst mounting odds, Biden seeks GOP support for infrastructure plan The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden meets with bipartisan lawmakers for infrastructure negotiations Senate Republicans label Biden infrastructure plan a 'slush fund' 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.
 
 
“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.