Senate Dems Put Out Their Own Trillion Dollar Infrastructure Plan

Senators including Chuck Schumer and Bernie Sanders unveiled a $1 trillion infrastructure spending program today. Photo:  Senate Democrats via YouTube
Senators including Chuck Schumer and Bernie Sanders unveiled a $1 trillion infrastructure spending program today. Photo: Senate Democrats via YouTube

Senate Democrats want you to know that Donald Trump’s proposal to generate $1 trillion in infrastructure spending via tax credits is a non-starter with them. They have an infrastructure “blueprint” of their own, one that’s weighted much more toward transit. The trouble is that Democrats have little power to set terms, and getting drawn into negotiations over an unnecessary infrastructure bill may not play out to their advantage.

At a press event today, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and several colleagues, including Bernie Sanders, outlined their infrastructure spending proposal. It calls for a trillion dollars of spending on transportation, schools, “energy infrastructure,” and water and sewer systems over 10 years (see below).

“We will not support tax credits for developers,” Schumer said in his opening remarks, referring to a campaign white paper put together by Trump’s advisors. Nor will Democrats support cuts to healthcare or education to pay for their plan, Schumer added.

But Schumer didn’t spell out how his plan would be paid for either. “We will discuss how to pay for it with President Trump,” he said.

As a pure policy document, the Democrats’ proposal has few specifics but there’s a lot to like. Compared to current spending levels, it calls for an emphasis on transit and maintenance, not highway expansion. Those spending priorities don’t have much of a chance in the GOP-controlled Congress, however.

Schumer appears to be betting that he can drive a wedge between Trump and Republicans in Congress. Infrastructure, in vague terms, was a recurring campaign theme for Trump, but fiscal conservatives in the GOP have opposed any new government spending.

The risk that Schumer has introduced is that once negotiations start, Democrats will get baited into accepting a Republican plan that won’t look much like theirs at all. While Trump himself appears to have no fixed point of view about transportation policy, all the major players on his team are firmly in the anti-transit, anti-city camp. Every recent Republican transportation proposal has been a vehicle for promoting sprawl via highway construction.

In a recent piece, TransitCenter warned that Democrats (and Republicans from districts where transit matters) should be prepared to fight the “fossil fuel and Wall Street interests eager to insert self-serving policies into the vacuum left by [Trump’s] slogans.” Chuck Schumer and Senate Democrats don’t seem to be adopting that fighting stance. They’re talking about making a deal.

Here’s a look at the outline Democrats put out today:

$100 Billion to “reconstruct roads and bridges.”

$100 Billion to “revitalize Main Street.”

$10 Billion to expand TIGER

$110 Billion for water and sewer projects

$50 Billion to modernize rail infrastructure.

$130 Billion to repair and expand transit.

$200 Billion for a “Vital Infrastructure Program.”

$75 Billion to rebuild public schools

$30 Billion for airports

$10 Billion for ports

$25 Billion to “build resilient communities.”

$100 Billion “for 21st Century Energy Infrastructure.”

$20 Billion to expand broadband access

$10 Billion for VA hospitals

$10 Billion to provide innovative financing tools.

  • NYCdenizen

    I think this article misses the point. Odds are, Democrats expect no action on this plan. The point is that they can say “we put up a plan based on Trump’s on words and he didn’t support it.” If by some odds Trump does support it, then it’s a win for Democrats because they get funding for infrastructure. If Trump doesn’t, then it’s still a win because Democrats get to say he isn’t following through on his campaign promises. Seems smart to me but, unfortunately I doubt our infrastructure will get the funding it needs.

  • ambiguator

    Where was this bill in 2008 – 2010 when we had the beginning of a recession and Democratic control of congress? Instead of infrastructure spending, Congress forked over taxpayer money to bail out Wall Street.

    Democrats didn’t have the balls in 2008, and this is a straight up bluff.

  • Southeasterner

    Only two more years before a Republican super-majority in the Senate. The Dems should get as many long term bills passed now while they still have the chance to have some voice. I think this is meant to get the conversation going ASAP so they can start the negotiations with Trump.

  • The point is that Trump won’t support the Democrats’ plan. He’ll respond with another, much worse plan. The GOP will go along with it. They don’t really care about deficit spending on infrastructure. As long as it’s highway infrastructure that they can show off to their constituents.

    Then what is Schumer going to do?

  • Carl S

    I doubt the Republicans will go along with a large spending plan as the conservatives and Tea Party still dominate and Trump’s popularity is too low to make them conform to his ideas. For years they have prioritized cutting government spending and the budget deficit. They also opposed the idea of a stimulus package when we were in a recession so they are unlikely to think we need more spending to boost the economy now. I also think Trump’s only option for boosting infrastructure spending will be to work with Democrats and try to get a few Republicans to go along with him.

  • Southeasterner

    You mean the $831 billion stimulus bill that passed in 2009 and provided close to $300 billion in infrastructure spending?

  • bolwerk

    The good news is most of the righter-wing Democrats who equivocated in 2008-2010 were rewarded with losing their seats.

    Though many still haven’t learned their lesson, and probably won’t.

  • Todd

    How can the Dems get anything passed?

    This is a pipe dream

  • Todd

    And the rest went to the bankers to bail them out?

  • Todd

    Most new Presidents know they have maybe just 2 years ti pass anything, then they lose the mid-Terms. Happened with Obama and Clinton. Also Reagan but somehow he still got stuff passed – helps to win 49/50 States

  • ambiguator

    $700B short, and the recession continued unabated for years.

  • ahwr

    The biggest items from the ARRA of 2009:

    ~300 billion in tax cuts
    ~150 billion for healthcare
    ~100 billion for education
    ~80 billion in direct aid to low income individuals (half of that was for extended unemployment benefits)
    ~100 billion for infrastructure (about half of that for transportation)

    TARP was a separate piece of legislation.

  • Southeasterner

    The recession ended in June 2009. Amazing, but not unexpected, to see Trump supporters so actively rewriting history.

  • Matthew Garlick

    He wasn’t saying get democratic bills passed, he was saying democrats should want to get as many multi-year authorizations (long term bills) passed in the next two years as possible. Not because they’ll be democratic bills or be the legislation democrats would write but because democrats are likely to have more leverage these 2 years, relative to the following 2 years (given the bad senate map for dems in 2018). So the thinking being the more multi-year authorizations enacted now, the less there will be for a more republican senate to craft in 2019/2020. The democrats leverage now being the ability to easily filibuster most pieces of legislation. Unfortunate appropriation bills (actual funding bills) are passed annually so nothing we can di there.

    I think the original poster though is being a little too paranoid, I don’t think the GOP will win enough senate seats to gain a filibuster proof majority (they’d need 8 more seats), so as long as they stay below 60, dems will still have some leverage when crafting big bills. Let’s remember too, it’s now a GOP White House, that should mean the midterms won’t be such total shit storms for democrats (as they were during the Obama era), especially if Mr. Trump isnt very popular at the time of the election (which isn’t hard to imagine given his current historically low approval ratings and how his first days in the White House have been spent getting called out for telling lies about his inaugural crowd size and his popular vote loss in November).. see the 2006 mid terms as an example.

  • ambiguator

    You’re right.
    Technically the Great Recession lasted less than a year in the US, I should have avoided that word.

    In real terms, however, most people still haven’t recovered, and wages have stagnated for about 40 years.

  • Southeasterner

    “I think the original poster though is being a little too paranoid, I don’t think the GOP will win enough senate seats to gain a filibuster proof majority (they’d need 8 more seats), ”

    Funny people told me I was just being paranoid when I said Trump was going to win the Republican primary and the presidential election.

    The Republicans have already identified the 8 Democratic seats they plan to win and are building up significant funds for the midterm elections –

    1) Bill Nelson, FL
    2) Joe Donnelly, IN
    3) Claire McCaskill, MO
    4) John Tester, MT
    5) Heidi Heitkamp, ND
    6) Joe Manchin, WV
    7) Sherrod Brown, OH
    8) Tammy Baldwin, WI

    Tammy may have been the one that was going to be a hold out but that is looking less and less likely as the Koch family is already ramping up their attacks.

  • Todd

    So you are advocating to be deliberately obstructive in a totally insincere way?

    No wonder you just lost the election.

  • Todd

    Either way that’s a lot of spend. So why not trim the fat a little?

  • Benny B

    I always wondered what people were doing on the Titanic, and now thanks to loser Democrats we know exactly how to re-arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic to be extra sensitive and politically correct. Anyone who thinks they can “cut a deal” with these clowns in the executive branch is either high or lying. But as Democrats that makes sense – they’re sooooo concerned with being prim and proper because that wins, right?

  • bolwerk

    Hard to say with any surety what will happen right now, but the Dems retaking the Senate can’t even be ruled out. They did just that, through no fault of their own of course, in 2006 with similar numerical disadvantage. Consider we have two years of grim mismanagement are ahead of us.

    The downside is that 2018 is the 2012/2006/2000 class, and in all those years the Dems did better than expected. In 2012, it was in a large part because milquetoast McCaskill beat one of those guys who thinks Jesus would stop a raped woman from getting pregnant.

  • bolwerk

    Because trimming the fat is a polite euphemism for slowing the economy down, which we are probably some years away from wanting to do.

  • Pietro Gambadilegno

    Middle income earnings have stagnated. Earnings of the top 10% have increased. Earnings of the top 1% have soared.

  • ambiguator

    … and will continue to so long as government handouts continue to be supply-side, trickle-down voodoo.

  • cjstephens

    Augh! Enough with the knee-jerk Trump bashing. As it happens, what’s being described as a reliable leak of President’s infrastructure priorities was published just as the Democrats were going through this little PR stunt. And guess what? The Gateway Project and the next two phases of the Second Avenue Subway were at the top of the list. If that doesn’t signal that this administration isn’t as completely monstrous as you make it out to be, then nothing will. Or maybe you’re going to oppose more federal funds to complete those projects just to show how much you hate Republicans? You can’t even wait for the Republicans to produce a plan without demeaning it. That kind of behavior reduces your credibility.

  • Patrick Jackson

    You actually expect a supermajority?
    Hahahahahahahaha

  • Patrick Jackson

    Plan to and will are very different things, not to mention potential democratic wins in NV, AZ, and TX. Right now there aren’t any blue seats that are leaning red.

  • Patrick Jackson

    Most people?

  • Patrick Jackson

    But cost of living has gone down, so purchasing power is up.

  • Patrick Jackson

    and Texas Central HSR too.

  • Todd

    Cuts do not slow the economy down. The money doesn’t vanish – it just gets spent on something else

  • bolwerk

    Are you asserting someone else can spend the government’s money for it?

  • ambiguator

    “Most people” as in everyone outside the top 10% of earners.

  • ambiguator

    In fact, the money doesn’t get spent.
    That’s the fundamental flaw in the logic of trickle-down.
    The money doesn’t get spent. It sits in rich people’s bank accounts and accumulates interest.
    We saw it play out very clearly with the Wall Street bailout, and before that with tax cuts for the rich.
    Banks got piles and piles of cash, but didn’t lend it out.
    Tax cuts for the rich made rich people richer, but wages for the rest of us stayed flat.

  • ambiguator

    This is a joke right?
    If not: please point to some measures by which cost of living has gone down.

  • Todd

    Money in accounts is used. It enables banks to lend more or, if in shares, helps companies expand

    Cuts don’t obliterate money. They divert money

  • Todd

    I’m asserting that if I pay less in tax because the government makes cuts, then that is more money in my pocket I can spend on other stuff

  • Patrick Jackson

  • ambiguator

    In theory, yes this is true, banks should have been able to lend more.
    This is the theory by which Geithner and TARP operated.

    But in practice, this did not actually happen.
    Money was not obliterated, obviously, it was hoarded by banks and super-rich.

  • Todd

    Again, money is not hoarded, it is invested.

    I guarantee you that whoever employed you was able to do that because someone loaned him the money or bought equity in his enterprise.

  • ambiguator

    Again, in theory yes. In practice:
    “few cited lending as a priority. Further, an overwhelming majority saw the program as a no-strings-attached windfall that could be used to pay down debt, acquire other businesses or invest for the future.”

    via http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/18/business/18bank.html

  • ambiguator

    And, yes, businesses of all sizes take on investments.
    But that was only one part of TARP’s corporate bailout.

  • ambiguator

    Cato Institute?
    Nope, sorry, try again.

  • Todd

    I’m still waiting for proof that fund that the rich have are not put to work

    No poor person ever offered me a job

  • Todd

    So what? The point is that any dollar I have that i do not need is put to work, say, in the stock market.

  • Matthew Garlick

    wow, sounds like you’re a real predictive genius. I don’t doubt that they’ve identified 8 seats that they will target and want to win, and i aknowledged its a bad senate map for democrats, I just doubt that they will win all of them. Again, its still 2 years away, so a lot can and will happen in between now and then. In the build up to the 2010 mid-terms which everyone knew would be bad for dems in the months leading up to it, many in the GOP thought they could win the 10 seats they’d need for a majority. they fell short. After that election they claimed they always knew it would be a “2 cycle project” to win the senate and that they’d retake it in 2012. At the start of the 2012 cycle the popular opinion of most pundits was the democrats would loose seats in that election and the only question was how many and if they would hold the vice presidency (which would give them the tie-breaker in a 50/50 senate), many assumed the senate was likely republican given the map. And then the election happened and not only did democrats hold the senate, not only did they not net loose any seats, they actually net gained 2, something no one would of expected just 12 months prior.

    of those 8 you list that clearly republicans will target, Manchin won his seat in the initial special election by 10 points and then the last election to a full term by more than 20 points. The best chance for the GOP here would of been had he announced his intention to leave the Senate and run in the next Governor election to get his old job back or leave to serve in the Trump Cabinent (as many were urging Trump to do, to open up that seat). He already announced he’d seek re-election rather than seek other office and wasnt chosen for Donalds Cabinent. Sherrod Brown has survived close challenges before and surprisingly comfortable when most thought it would be razor thin close, as has Tester and Nelson (who has been re-elected by double digits in 2006 and 2012). Heidi Heitkamp surprised everyone by her win in 2012 and continues to have a high approval rating in a usually dark red state. Many of these races could come down to the viability of the candidates the GOP choose, theyve had a bad history this last decade of loosing winable races because they choose lunatics and crazy people in the primary. And you can’t discount the potential for dems to pick up a republican seat, namely in Nevada, a state thats gone democratic in the last 3 presidential cycles, continues to diversify by the day and where the the Repulican Dean Heller, won last time by 1 point against a challenger under investigation for ethics and corruption charges.

    And again, a lot of the narrative going in to 2018 will come down to the Presidents popularity, if Trump is unpopular the republican party ownes that, and based on the first 2 weeks, its not hard to imagine he will be pretty damn unpopular (considering 40% of the country already want him impeached, his approval rating average is lower than obamas ever got even during the worst weeks of his 8 year tenure and trump got there during his “honeymoon” when the public is usally more foregiving, and we’re seeing mass protests to his agenda across the country and a suddenly energized democratic base). My only suggestion is, there’s no reason to be so defeatist, democrats have a bad habit of doing that.

  • Matthew Garlick

    huh? when did i advocate for that???? I think you’re confused. I simply was relaying my interpretation of what the Original Poster was saying. I never endorsed anything. As for the original posters feelings, you’d have to ask him, but i’d argue there is nothing insencere here. He’s simply arguing to use leverage where leverage exists. Republicans did the same strategy, but on steroids, holding the nations and the worlds economy hostage to try to get a democratic president to do something that went against his sincerely held beliefs. I know why the GOP did this, they wanted to get a scalp for something that didn’t cost them anything (as much as they claimed how terrible it was for them to vote on the debt ceiling, they had no problems voting for it 8 times during the Bush administration, when the deficit was actually shooting up, while the deficit Obama inherrited started falling early in his administration) and they wanted to enact a piece of their agenda that is massively unpopular (social security and medicare cuts) and do it with a democratic president who would then bear the political blowback for signing such cuts. It will be interesting if republicans get a taste of their own medicine now, and democrats demand tax increases on wall street and multinational corporations and billionaires in exchange for not filibustering a debt ceiling bill (and republicans suddenly decide once again that no its actually not so hard to vote on it and is the responsible thing to do). Or perhaps democrats could demand republicans enact a “public option” health plan to compete against private insurers. The thrust of the original posters argument is also the exact opposite of obstruction, he’s advocating PASSING AS MUCH MULTI-YEAR AUTHORIZATION BILLS AS POSSIBLE over the next two years, look up obstruction in the dictionary and get back to me on if this sounds like obstruction.

    As for your feelings on obstruction, its somewhat rich. Republicans just spent 8 years being obstructionist in an unprecedented way. GOP leadership even told republicans to oppose anything Obama wanted to do, even if they usually support it (as seen when Obama came out in support of a deficit reduction committee and the republican authors of the bill itself not only voted against it, but filibustered it.. I repeat; filibustered their own damn bill because, the black president said it was a good idea, oh the horror). Democrats continue to say they will vote for proposals from trump that they support, democratic leadership has said, their primary goal the next four years will not be to make Trump a one term president (to be fair, he’s doing a good job of doing that himself), we all infamously remember Mitch McConnell’s vow that his primary goal was to make Obama a one term President.

  • Todd

    It’s not “leverage” to try and annoy and irritate people who have nothing to do with the issue. That was the only point I made, so I’m not sure why you wrote a small essay on other topics.