The U.S. Congress is back to work after their Spring break and on Monday, April 29, House Democrats reached an agreement with President Donald Trump to negotiate a $2 trillion infrastructure bill.
This is a surprising announcement considering the context of the polarized partisan gridlock in Washington, emerging from the longest government shutdown in history and developing further with the conclusion of the special counsel’s investigation.
On Tuesday, the President invited Congressional Democrats to the White House and his conversation with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) ended on a positive note. The Hill reported that Schumer told reporters “there was goodwill” and that “we hope it will go to a constructive conclusion.” The two Congressional leaders also noted that this is only the start to a negotiation process on how to allocate funds for the improvement of the nation’s infrastructure.
Prior to the White House meeting, Pelosi and Schumer wrote Trump a letter in which they expressed their proposals for the infrastructure legislation. These proposals include increased “substantial, new, and real revenue” be raised for “broadband, water, energy, schools, housing, and other initiatives” in addition, the letter stated that: “we must also invest in resiliency and risk mitigation of our current infrastructure to deal with climate change,” the Washington Examiner reported. The letter mentions “climate change and ‘clean’ energy” but does not mention “roads, bridges, or highways,” the Daily Caller noted.
Furthermore, Democrats’ proposals “go beyond transportation” and diverge from Trump’s priorities concerning infrastructure. White House adviser Kellyanne Conway has called out Democrats, warning against promoting a climate change agenda embodied in the Green New Deal under the pretext of infrastructure improvement. Conway had remarked that these radical ideas “should not be brought to the White House today under the guise of infrastructure,” the Washington Examiner reported. Conway suggested that Democrats should be addressing the President’s priorities in streamlining infrastructure permits and private-public partnerships. The Green New Deal was introduced back in February by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) but it subsequently was voted down with a 57-0 vote in the Senate.
Markey, in a recent interview with Vox, admitted Democrats’ intentions concerning climate change agendas being legislated through infrastructure reform: “We’ve also made it quite clear that if there is an infrastructure bill, we’re going to make it a green energy bill. We’re going to be submitting amendments that ensure that bill has aggressive renewable energy resource and energy efficiency standards, and that there are higher and stronger standards for federal renewable energy procurement.”
The White House Press Secretary released a statement following the meeting, which clarified the President’s priorities on infrastructure, going forward: “on rebuilding our Nation’s crumbling infrastructure including roads, highways, bridges, tunnels and railroads, modernizing our air travel system, and expanding broadband access for our great farmers and rural America…The United States has not come even close to properly investing in infrastructure for many years, foolishly prioritizing the interests of other countries over our own. We have to invest in this country’s future and bring our infrastructure to a level better than it has ever been before. We will have another meeting in three weeks to discuss specific proposals and financing methods.”