Ahead of the meeting, hopes for a productive session were muted. On Monday, the two Democratic leaders sent a letter to Trump staking out their position on infrastructure priorities.
Schumer and Pelosi called for “substantial, new and real revenue” to pay for the package. But yesterday, Washington sources reported that Schumer added a new condition: rolling back some of the 2017 tax cuts in exchange for increasing the gas tax, which Democrats say will hurt lower-income working people. That’s likely a non-starter for the president and Senate Republicans.
Trump and Democratic leaders agreed to meet again in three weeks to hash out how to pay for the infrastructure deal. Trump’s support is seen as crucial for getting the Senate on board.
Federal spending on infrastructure has dropped by 20 percent since 2003, according to a Congressional Budget Office report issued last year. It stated that infrastructure accounted for 2.5 percent of federal spending in 2016, down from its peak in 1966 of nearly 6 percent.
Federal spending on mass transit and rail has had its ups and downs, reaching $24.8 billion in 1981, declining to a low of $9.4 billion in 1999 and increasing to $17.3 billion for 2017.
The Schumer-Pelosi letter called for a bill that “should go beyond transportation” to include broadband, water, energy, schools, housing, and “other initiatives” – a grab-bag sure to increase complexity in reaching any agreement and potentially leaving transportation interests with a slimmer slice of the pie.
Tuesday’s meeting included Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin and Debbie Stabenow, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and Rep. Peter DeFazio, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, along with other Democrats.
Trump was joined by Transportation Sec. Elaine Chao, Ivanka Trump, economic advisor Larry Kudlow, press secretary Sarah Sanders, and others.