After meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said that they and the president have agreed to pursue $2 trillion in spending over 25 years to upgrade the country’s infrastructure.
Now all they have to do is figure out what exactly the plan will do – and how to pay for it.
The lawmakers said they will meet with Trump again in three weeks, at which point the president is expected to provide some proposals for how to finance such a large-scale plan.
Schumer said that Tuesday’s meeting was a positive start marked by “goodwill” on both sides. “That was different than some of the other meetings that we’ve had,” he said outside the White House. “This was a very, very good start. … We hope it will go to a constructive conclusion.”
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders also called the meeting "excellent and productive," though her statement did not mention the $2 trillion figure.
Schumer said that Trump was “eager” to raise the top line of the potential package to $2 trillion and agreed to include funds for rural broadband. Schumer also said that Trump’s support was crucial given a divided Congress. "Because certainly in the Senate if we don't have him on board, it will be very hard to get the Senate to go along," he said.
While rebuilding the country’s aging infrastructure has broad, bipartisan support, critics on both sides of the aisle expressed skepticism that the plan would come to fruition, given the gridlock that now defines Washington.
Speaking before the meeting concluded, Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said that while he thought there was some interest on both sides in reaching a deal, he also suspected Democrats may be going through the motions “to make a show for trying to get a deal.” He also said that the White House will insist on changing environmental regulations as part of any infrastructure package, a potential red flag for Democrats.
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway highlighted a potential conflict over the substance of the plan, saying that Democrats think that infrastructure includes clean energy and building “dog parks and more bike trails,” while the Trump administration is focused on more basic elements such as roads, bridges and airports.
MSNBC’s Chris Hayes was more openly skeptical, tweeting, “What is the political upside of pretending to strike an infrastructure deal with the president that will never happen in a bajillion years?”
In the end, the biggest speedbump of all will likely be funding. “[I]t’s going to come down to money and pay-fors, as always,” said G. William Hoagland of the Bipartisan Policy Center.
For that reason, the second meeting between the president and Democratic lawmakers will be crucial and may determine whether any infrastructure package is passed during the remainder of Trump’s first term.