- Reuters/Kevin Lamarque
Infrastructure was supposed to be the one area President Donald Trump would find common ground with Democrats.
But the opposition party’s responses to his proposal out this week, which includes a modest commitment of public funds on the promise of hypothetical private investment, suggest even this area of Trump policy will be a nonstarter in Congress.
First out of the gate to comment on the plan was Senate Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who said “a private-sector-driven infrastructure plan means tolls, tolls, tolls – paid by average, working Americans. It also means that infrastructure that can’t be built with tolls, like repairing our crumbling schools, for instance, will likely get left behind.”
A group of Democratic House members speaking to reporters on a conference call Wednesday went a step further.
“This is just a private money-making operation for the big business buddies of the president,” Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland said. “They plan to give away billions of dollars to Wall Street banks and foreign investors including Saudi Arabia.”
Raskin evoked America’s great public projects, such as President Dwight Eisenhower’s development of the interstate highway system in the 1950s, as the kind of transformative, publicly-minded and -funded project US leaders should be striving for. “These were real investments in public dollars and public effort and energy,” he said.
Under Trump’s proposal, the federal government would commit just $200 billion. So how does the administration tout a $1 trillion figure? They assume $800 in private investments, whose sources and incentives are as of yet unidentified.
“Even though Congress agrees on this I think there’s even more agreement in the Democratic Party about supporting a program that actually creates jobs and fights against Trump’s agenda of privatization,” Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado said. “Of course public private partnerships have a role in transportation and infrastructure but they certainly shouldn’t be the leading force.”
Trump’s plan is “way too much about helping his golfing buddies,” Polis said.