Will Democrats Fall for Trump’s Fake Infrastructure Plan?

Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr
Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

After more than a year of teasing, Trump administration officials say the White House infrastructure plan will drop later this month.

This is one area where Trump can’t rely on GOP majorities to push through major legislation. An infrastructure bill will need 60 Senate votes to pass, but Democrats might decide to withhold their support instead of giving Trump a bipartisan legislative accomplishment heading into the midterms.

In terms of policy, the Trump team has signaled at every occasion that their infrastructure plan will be a disaster for cities and transit. His budget proposals have called for merciless cuts to transit funding (Congress didn’t follow through on the worst of it), and the administration has been refusing to release grants for transit projects around the country, threatening their completion.

Delaware Senator Tom Carper, the ranking Dem on the infrastructure committee, is practically begging for a Trump infrastructure plan. Photo: a href="https://www.epw.senate.gov/public/">Senate EPW
Delaware Senator Tom Carper, the ranking Democrat on the infrastructure committee, is eager to see a Trump infrastructure plan. Photo: Senate EPW

Nevertheless, this was the message from Delaware Senator Tom Carper, ranking member of the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works, in a press release yesterday:

I am hopeful that we will finally see the long-promised infrastructure proposal from the Trump Administration sooner rather than later.

While there is no shortage of issues on which the president and I disagree, the kind of large scale trillion dollar infrastructure investment that then-candidate Trump talked about is something that has the potential to elicit bipartisan support here in Congress.

On the surface, this seems like a naive take on Trump’s sloganeering about a “$1 trillion infrastructure plan.” Carper might be saving a confrontation for later, but making entreaties to work out an infrastructure deal probably won’t end well, given what we already know.

In December, Politico reported that Trump and the GOP only planned to spend $200 million in federal funds on infrastructure over ten years. Some of that would potentially come from cuts to other programs — like healthcare and education. The other $800 would come from cities, states, and private financing.

The types of infrastructure deals the Trump administration is already trying to encourage don’t bode well for a larger package. Under Trump, U.S. DOT has already been caught restructuring project funding packages to funnel more money to banks and extract more from taxpayers.

Democrats in the Senate have a lot of leverage in this process. But if party leaders like Carper don’t even try to drive a hard bargain, their constituents will lose.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “In terms of policy, the Trump team has signaled at every occasion that their infrastructure plan will be a disaster for cities and transit.”

    My solution — no federal infrastructure funding. Everyone pays for their own.

    The goal is apparently to destroy the places young people want to live, and browbeat them into overpaying for Generation Greed’s houses, so they retire to Florida with even more loot. And when it comes to generational inequities at the federal level, the Republicans take the lead but the Democrats go along.

    “The administration has been refusing to release grants for transit projects around the country, threatening their completion.”

    Sounds like there is no incentive to cooperate. He could just do the same after his plan is approved.

  • Newtonmarunner

    I’m just wondering what the author of this article would like Ranking Member Carper to say.

    What problems would she like to be solved in this bill? What problems does she think Trump is trying to solve in this bill? What problems does she think Democrats are trying to solve in this bill? What provisions would help solve the problems she would like to be solved?

  • TakeFive

    The President recently, like in the last few days, suggested or acknowledged that P3 leveraging wasn’t likely to work, at least not as originally envisioned. That said I expect Team Trump to offer essentially that plan for starters as there’s not much else to do.

    The Administration wants Congress to come up with $200 billion to be allocated per custom to be used as states wish. They also want to get rid of many unneeded regs and streamline the approval process.

    Bottom Line: If Trump can get Republicans to spend an extra $200 billion there won’t be any resistance from Dems, well other than for some obligatory politicking.

  • TakeFive

    Nah, No city is required to accept funding; there will be no shortage of other cities willing to accept those funds.

  • JK

    Hoping that Streetsblog will always use the terms “private finance” or “private finance initiative” to describe privately funded, public infrastructure projects. “Public Private Partnerships” or “P3” is far too broad and vague, and conflates Design Build or a govt contract to operate a public facility with private finance — which is a very different thing.

  • TakeFive

    The problem is partly that every P3 is individually negotiated. The advantage of the private sector contributing financing is that it helps to preserve the borrowing capacity of the government agency. Are BAB’s still available? The landscape keeps changing. In any case since the gov’t agency is still ultimately responsponsible, subject to the contract terms, their credit is taken into account.

    But yeah, design build and even manage is just a local preference or strategy.

  • Elias Zamaria

    Good article, but I think I see some typos: According to the Politico article, the GOP planned to spend $200 billion on infrastructure, not $200 million. And I think “the other $800” should be “the other $800 billion”.

  • AMH

    A Freudian slip?

  • cjstephens

    Good questions, but that’s not how Schmitt (or the #resistance) works.

  • S.P. Miller

    Minor correction:
    “If Trump can get Republicans to spend an extra $200 billion [without cutting incredibly popular grants (e.g. TIGER) that provide states and cities with transportation funds to explicitly build multi-modal projects,] there won’t be any resistance from Dems…”

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