The scheduled talks between congressional Democratic leaders and President Trump today on potential infrastructure investment legislation — which could include funding for broadband infrastructure — ended quickly, with President Trump declaring that “you can’t do it under these circumstances” with congressional investigations of the president under way, and Democrats suggesting that this was just an excuse.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) had met with President Trump regarding infrastructure legislation about three weeks ago and agreed that broadband should be included in an infrastructure package and that the total price of the entire infrastructure initiative should be $2 trillion.
Yesterday evening, President Trump sent a letter to the two Democratic congressional leaders, saying that he believes “Congress should first pass the important and popular USMCA,” or U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement on trade, which the three countries’ leaders signed last fall (TR Daily, May 21).
Today, after a brief meeting with Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer, President Trump told reporters, “I just saw that Nancy Pelosi, just before our meeting, made a statement that ‘We believe that the President of the United States is engaged in a cover-up.’”
The president told reporters that he had initiated the discussions on infrastructure believing that “we’ll get that done easily” because it is “one of the easy” issues. “And instead of walking in happily into a meeting, I walk in to look at people that had just said that I was doing a cover-up. I don’t do cover-ups. You people know that probably better than anybody,” he added.
“So I’ve said from the beginning, right from the beginning, that you probably can’t go down two tracks. You can go down the investigation track, and you can go down the investment track or the track of ‘Let’s get things done for the American people,’” President Trump said.
“So I just wanted to let you know that I walked into the room and I told Senator Schumer and Speaker Pelosi, ‘I want to do infrastructure. I want to do it more than you want to do it. I’d be really good at that. That’s what I do. But you know what? You can’t do it under these circumstances. So get these phony investigations over with,’” he added.
“So when they get everything done, I’m all set to — let’s get infrastructure,” he said.
Speaking to reporters later, Speaker Pelosi noted the letter yesterday evening from the president saying that USMCA action should precede infrastructure legislation. “We didn't see those two as related, but the fact is, hopeful, optimistic and seeing the necessity for a big infrastructure initiative for our country, we went in the spirit of bipartisanship to find common ground with the President on this,” she said.
“We had hoped that we could give this President an opportunity to have a signature infrastructure initiative to create jobs, to improve the quality of life, to just do so much for our country on the ongoing — not only the jobs it created by building, but the commerce it would promote. And that included roads and bridges and mass transit — well, broadband into rural America and other underserved areas, clean water, wastewater, all of the things that have numerous needs. The American Society of Civil Engineers says it's in the trillions, the deficit we have, we're talking about a couple [trillion] dollars,” Speaker Pelosi added.
“For some reason, maybe it was lack of confidence on his part, that he really couldn't match the greatness of the challenge that we have, wasn't really respectful of the reason — of the Congress and the White House working together. He just took a pass and it just makes me wonder why he did that. In any event, I pray for the President of the United States. And I pray for the United States of America.”
Sen. Schumer said that “to watch what happened in the White House would make your jaw drop.”
He added, “The President asked in his letter last night: where would Democrats spend the money on infrastructure? I was prepared to give him a 35-page plan detailing this in all the areas I mentioned and more that have the broad support of Senate and House Democrats. We were interested, we are interested in doing infrastructure. It’s clear the President isn’t. He is looking for every excuse, whether it was ‘Let's do trade first’, or whether it was ‘He's not going to pay for any funding,’ or whether today, that ‘There are investigations going on.’ Hello, there were investigations going on three weeks ago when we met, and he still met with us. But now that he was forced to actually say how he'd pay for it, he had to run away, and he came up with this pre-planned excuse.
“And one final point: it's clear that this was not a spontaneous move on the President’s part. It was planned. When we got in the room, the curtains were closed, the President — there was a place for him at the front, so he could stand and attempt to tell us why he wouldn’t do infrastructure. And of course, then he went to the Rose Garden with prepared signs that had been printed up long before our meeting. We want the President to do infrastructure. We want our Congress to perform its constitutional responsibilities and create jobs, create income, create wealth for the average American. We can do both. It’s clear the President doesn't want to do any of that.”
In a letter to other Democrats in the House, Speaker Pelosi this afternoon said that in the meeting three weeks ago, “we were pleased to hear the President agree to a $2 trillion plan with an 80/20 funding split to rebuild America’s infrastructure, and agree to provide his ideas for pay-fors in the meeting scheduled for today.”
She added, “There were those who said that we should not work with the President, but we believe that we must be For The People and create good-paying jobs for American workers. Democrats are here for the country. Sadly, the only job the President seems to be concerned with is his own. He threatened to stop working with Democrats on all legislation unless we end oversight of his Administration and he had a temper tantrum for us all to see.” —Lynn Stanton, [email protected]
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