WASHINGTON — On April 4, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi dialed up the president and requested a meeting. She talked to Donald Trump about working together on an infrastructure package.
It was the first phone call between the two since the testy days of the government shutdown earlier this year, and it seemed productive. They are planning to meet, she told the Associated Press in an April 10 interview.
On April 11, Pelosi told reporters she’s looking for at least $1 trillion for the infrastructure package — far more than the $200 billion Trump has proposed — and she would like to get it closer to $2 trillion. She said she expects to “meet soon” with the president to discuss it.
“I have pooh-poohed his $200 billion mini-nothing of an infrastructure bill,” she said during the House Democrats’ issues conference retreat in Virginia. “And I think he probably knows that was not a successful path to building the infrastructure from sea to shining sea.”
ELAINE CHAO: Administration open to all funding options
CAPITOL AGENDA: Bridge construction greets cherry blossom enthusiasts
Lawmakers said they expect to have legislation ready for consideration in the House by June or July.
The White House confirmed the president and the speaker “did speak last week and have agreed to meet soon to discuss working together on infrastructure,” administration spokesman Judd Deere said.
“The president wants a bipartisan infrastructure package that rebuilds crumbling infrastructure, invests in the projects and industries of tomorrow and promotes permitting efficiency,” Deere said April 11.
Launching an infrastructure investment program is the kind of big bipartisan undertaking that seems all but impossible in times like these.
The Trump administration’s “infrastructure week” became a punchline around Washington when it fizzled amid the White House’s often shifting priorities. Trump promised on election night a $1 trillion investment in new roads and other projects but has never come close to achieving it. Democrats scoff at the $200 billion requests he’s made in his budget proposals as meager. Pelosi called it a “nonstarter.”
But infrastructure — like the effort on lowering prescription drug costs — is the kind of initiative that could benefit both of them as they head toward the 2020 campaign season. They could change the subject from the ongoing investigations that pose risks for both parties, and they could show voters they can deliver with building projects that improve communities and create jobs even at a time of divided government, with Democrats controlling the House and Republicans controlling the Senate.
After her talks with Trump, Pelosi thinks the president may be willing to do more than he’s put on the table. Trump’s latest budget proposed $200 billion in federal dollars that could be leveraged with private capital to cover the difference.
“I don’t think the president is wedded to that proposal,” she said. “It’s too small.”
She says 80% of their conversations, including the talk April 4, are about infrastructure. They’re trying, she said, to find areas of “common ground.” The purpose of the upcoming meeting she requested is to “get a dollar figure” as a starting point for the discussions.
Asked about infrastructure, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also left open the possibility of a fresh bipartisan effort.
“We’ve all been talking about infrastructure, including the president, for a couple of years now,” McConnell (R-Ky.) told Fox News April 10. “We need some straight talk from both sides on how we’re going to pay for it.”