House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other top Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday provided some additional details on what they aim to get in a possible bipartisan congressional deal on infrastructure spending, mentioning not just transportation projects but also health centers, water systems and broadband internet.
Pelosi and President Donald Trump both said earlier this week that Washington’s “Phase 4” response to the coronavirus crisis ought to include big spending on infrastructure, with Trump backing an outlay of $2 trillion.
In a conference call with reporters on Wednesday, Pelosi and her colleagues said their proposed infrastructure package in large part could follow the framework of a $760 billion plan that they proposed in January. The California Democrat said her party’s lawmakers and Trump were not that far away from each other on any upcoming infrastructure program’s price tag.
“The $760 billion package is a five-year package. The president talks about $2 trillion — he’s talking about 10 years,” Pelosi said. “So we’re probably in the ballpark of the same amount of investment for the future.”
Beyond their earlier $760 billion proposal, she said House Democrats also want $10 billion for community health centers, as well as infrastructure spending related to education and housing. Democratic lawmakers intend to have spending as well on improvements to drinking-water systems, broadband internet and public-safety communication systems such as next-generation 911, said Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey, who chairs the House Energy & Commerce Committee.
The Democratic plan that was announced in January designated $329 billion for modernizing highways and improving road safety, including fixing 47,000 “structurally deficient” bridges and reducing carbon pollution. It also aimed to set aside $105 billion for transit agencies, $55 billion for rail investments such as Amtrak, $30 billion for airport improvements and $86 billion for expanding broadband access.
“I could provide the legislative language in very, very short order for this package. It’s the funding that’s been holding us up, and if the president insists on funding, then I believe that Senator McConnell and Leader McCarthy will move on this issue,” said Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon, who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, referring to two top Republican lawmakers, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. “So that makes a huge, huge difference.”
The Trump administration, for its part, continued to sound upbeat on Wednesday on making a deal on infrastructure with Democratic lawmakers. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on CNBC that he is talking with senior congressional Democrats about an infrastructure bill as part of the government’s continued response to the coronavirus outbreak. “It is a great time now to invest in infrastructure,” Mnuchin said.
“We expect that there will be something for infrastructure in the fourth stimulus package which is now coming together and will be taken up by Congress in late April/early May,” said Capital Alpha Partners analysts in a note on Wednesday. But the analysts cautioned that a $1 trillion or $2 trillion bipartisan deal can’t happen until Democrats and Republicans sort out a range of differences, such as Democrats having “more expansive” views on what constitutes infrastructure and including “issues such as climate change and resiliency.”
”We come back April 20 — God willing and coronavirus willing,” Pelosi said, referring to when Congress is slated to return to work and consider a “Phase 4” package. “Shortly thereafter, we should be able to move forward.”