By John Schneidawind, vice president of public affairs, ARTBA
The May 22 meeting between President Donald Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on how to pay for the $2 trillion infrastructure proposal they discussed April 30 ended in acrimony amid impeachment politics and charges of bad faith by each side.
However, transportation trade and industry groups vowed to continue pressuring Congress and the Trump administration for a comprehensive infrastructure bill during the current session. Members of Congress also pledged to continue working on surface transportation and broader infrastructure bills.
“Despite the break-up of today’s meeting, ARTBA will continue to work this issue so that our nation’s leaders pass infrastructure legislation in this session of Congress,” said ARTBA President and CEO Dave Bauer. Read his full statement.
The second White House meeting on infrastructure ended almost before it began, with Trump refusing to discuss the issue while congressional Democrats investigate him and his administration. Late May 21, the president sent a letter to Pelosi and Schumer declaring that any negotiations on infrastructure must wait until Congress passes the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA). “Before we get to infrastructure, it is my strong view that Congress should first pass the important and popular USMCA trade deal,” Trump wrote.
Trump also stipulated that his preference is to meld any infrastructure package with a recurring reauthorization for traditional highway and transit programs, which expires next year. That would be short of a more ambitious package proposed by Democrats that includes broader funding for other infrastructure, such as veterans’ hospitals and broadband.
Before heading to the White House May 22, Pelosi met with the congressional Democratic caucus, many of whom want to impeach Trump. She accused the president of engaging in a “cover-up” pertaining to the Russian election meddling and collusion investigation. Her comment angered Trump.
Despite the setback, leaders on Capitol Hill said they would continue working on some form of infrastructure legislation with the goal of passing a bill this session.
Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said: “Despite the disappointing outcome of today’s meeting, I remain committed to working in a bipartisan manner to move our infrastructure into the 21st-century, because the cost of inaction is too great. Even if a transformative deal with the White House remains elusive in the near term, I will continue to use my position … to work with Republicans to move individual pieces of legislation that will make a difference, I will continue to work on a surface transportation reauthorization bill, and I will continue putting in the legwork to make improvements to our nation’s infrastructure that Americans expect and deserve.”