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June 18, 2020 4:00 PM, EDT

House Democrats Pitch $1.5 Trillion in Infrastructure Spending

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks during a news conference June 11.House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks during a news conference June 11. (Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/Bloomberg News)

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House Democrats on June 18 pitched a $1.5 trillion plan to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure and urged President Donald Trump to immediately engage in negotiations on how to pay for it.

The House is scheduled to vote on the plan before the July 4 recess, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that she hopes bipartisan interest in rebuilding crumbling roads, bridges, water systems and other infrastructure prevails over the political inertia that has stalled action on the long-discussed issue.

“The president, we understand, really wants an infrastructure bill,” Pelosi said. “He talks about it quite a bit, so now let’s get down to what that means.”

The Trump administration has privately discussed a $1 trillion measure as a way to stimulate jobs growth in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. But both sides have been reluctant so far to commit to a way to fund an infrastructure package, including raising the gas tax or other fees. With the next election less than five months away, the idea of negotiating raising taxes, even with gasoline prices relatively low, will be a difficult sell.

House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal, whose committee is in charge of tax policy, said Democrats have proposed floating new bond measures and using some borrowing to pay for the plan.

“It’s time to have the conversation; it’s time to negotiate,” he said. “We think on the revenue side, we are open to some solutions and negotiations.”

The bill would make changes to the tax code to permanently reinstate Build America Bonds and Advance Refunding Bonds, and expand the issuance of Private Activity Bonds. It would also make permanent and expand the New Markets Tax Credit.

Trump has periodically called for more spending on infrastructure, including during his 2016 presidential campaign. In March, as the pandemic tightened its grip on the U.S., he urged as much as $2 trillion in new investment in U.S. roads, bridges and tunnels. But there’s been no detailed White House plan for the spending or how to pay for it.

The Senate last July advanced a $287 billion surface transportation bill out of the Environment and Public Works Committee but has not debated it on the floor.

The House Democrats’ plan goes far beyond roads and bridges. It encompasses roughly $500 billion in highway and transit funds, $100 billion for schools, $100 billion for affordable housing, $100 billion for broadband, $65 billion for water projects, $70 billion for the electric grid, $30 billion for hospitals and $25 billion for the Postal Service over 10 years.

The plan is being pitched as a linchpin for the congressional response to the economic dislocations caused by the pandemic.

”We are going to need a lot of jobs when we come out of this,” Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter DeFazio told reporters.

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