President Trump urged “obstructionist” Democrats on Wednesday to work with him on repairing the country’s infrastructure, a top priority that the White House has so far struggled to bring Democrats on board with.
Infrastructure has long been billed as one of the few areas that could receive broad bipartisan support this Congress, with Trump pledging to send a $1 trillion package to Capitol Hill later this year that he had hoped both parties would eagerly embrace.
But Democrats have increasingly lost their appetite to make a deal with Trump on the issue as details about the rebuilding proposal have begun to emerge and as other controversies have besieged the White House in recent weeks.
“I’m calling on all Democrats and Republicans to join together, if that’s possible, in the great rebuilding of America,” Trump said during a speech in Cincinnati, Ohio, standing in front of a barge of West Virginia coal. “The people… they want to see us all come to together. But I just don’t see them coming together.”
The president blasted Democrats for trying to block his agenda, such as his effort to repeal and replace ObamaCare, and suggested Democrats might have more electoral success if they came together on issues like infrastructure.
“Boy, have they tried every single thing. They’re just obstructionists,” Trump said. “I don’t think, you know honestly, I would be doing it that way. I would be doing positive things.”
“That’s why they lost the House, they lost the Senate, and they lost the White House,” he added.
Trump also assailed ObamaCare in the speech, which is part of a weeklong effort by the White House to ramp up support for his infrastructure initiative. Wednesday’s remarks were focused partly on the importance of inland waterways and their vital role in transporting corn, steel, coal and other products.
But Democrats are seemingly being driven further away.
A group of Democratic lawmakers held a conference call after the speech on Wednesday to offer their “rebuttal” to Trump’s rebuilding ideas.
“I have not heard a single colleague say that he or she was remotely tempted by this scam plan that Trump is putting out there," Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) said on the call.
And Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerDemocrats press Schumer on removing Confederate statues from Capitol Democrats' do-or-die moment Biden touts 'progress' during 'candid' meetings on .5T plan MORE (D-N.Y.) took to the Senate floor Wednesday to express “disappointment” over the White House’s infrastructure proposal thus far, which he said amounts to a corporate giveaway for wealthy investors.
“I’ve talked to the president several times on the phone. I said I want to work with you on infrastructure. No response, and now their plan, without any consultation among Democrats and even talk they should do this on reconciliation, no Democratic support or votes or input,” Schumer said.
“Let’s not have a few financiers whispering into the ear of the president to determine what our infrastructure policy will be, because it will be a flop.”
A chief concern among Democrats and rural Republicans is that Trump’s infrastructure proposal relies heavily on a private-sector funding model, which will only help projects that can recoup their own investment costs through toll ways or user fees.
But the White House signaled in a fact sheet on Wednesday that the rebuilding plan will include some traditional funding sources as well, which could be designed to bring more Democrats and rural Republicans on board.
The package will spend $200 billion in federal dollars, with the hope of spurring $800 billion more in matching funds from states, cities and the private sector.
The proposal will be divided into four funding categories: grants for rural areas to rebuild crippled bridges, roads, and waterways; loans for regionally or nationally significant projects; grants for states and cities to directly meet local transportation needs; and incentive programs to help spur private sector investment in “transformative projects.”
Trump also emphasized that his legislation will roll back burdensome regulations and “massively” streamline the construction approval and permitting process, with the goal of bringing the timeline from as long as 10 years down to two years.
The president painted a stark contrast to Obama’s economic stimulus package — a nod to conservative concern over backing a massive infrastructure bill.
“The last administration passed a stimulus package, of which only a tiny seven percent went to infrastructure and much of that was just wasted money,” Trump said. “Shovel-ready wasn’t shovel-ready, that I can tell you. We’re not going to repeat that mistake.”
Trump said he will task a team, led by real-estate developers Richard LeFrak and Steven Roth, to oversee all projects included in his infrastructure bill in order to ensure timely and efficient delivery.
“We’ll have people watching over each of these jobs, and every penny will count to them,” Trump said.