Dems set sights on infrastructure, ‘piecemeal’ climate action

HOUSE
Dems set sights on infrastructure
George Cahlink, E&E News reporter
Published: Friday, April 12, 2019

LEESBURG, Va. — Speaker Nancy Pelosi is making a potentially $2 trillion infrastructure package a top priority for the House, despite not having a clear plan for paying for it.
The California Democrat made the case for moving a wide-ranging package as her caucus gathered here at the Lansdowne Resort and Spa for a three-day retreat.
She and other Democratic leaders sought to hammer home a message that the proposal could create millions of jobs, pare down a $5 trillion infrastructure backlog and win support across party lines.

“It has to be at least $1 trillion, I’d like it be closer to $2 trillion. It’s how you leverage it; there are all kinds of ways to spend and invest in it,” she said of the scope of the package.
While saying she believed President Trump was interested in a bipartisan deal, Pelosi was dismissive of his opening offer of a $1 trillion plan. The administration’s approach would rely heavily on private as well as local and state investments to leverage $200 billion in federal spending.

“I have pooh-poohed his $200 billion mini-nothing of an infrastructure bill that said to the communities, ‘You do 80%; we do 20%.’ That’s a formula that does nothing,” she said. “I think he probably knows that was not a successful path.”

Pelosi sketched out a broad plan that would include traditional infrastructure projects such as roads and bridges and efforts aimed at public housing and schools. She also stressed the need to find ways to replace aging water systems.

“Our water systems, some of them are 100 years old, built of brick and wood — how would you like a glass of water [from them]?” she said.

Pelosi also said policies aimed at combating climate change would be closely connected to the infrastructure plan. For example, she said, roads would need to be rebuilt and reengineered to allow for more driverless electric vehicles.

The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will take the lead on the bill, but Pelosi noted panels with oversight of energy and environmental policies would have significant input, including the Energy and Commerce and Natural Resources committees, as well as the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis.

While leaders of the party’s liberal and centrists wings backed a go-big approach, Democrats failed to offer any unified vision for how they would fund it.

Covering its hefty price tag has long been the main sticking point in negotiations with the White House and Senate Republicans (E&E Daily, April 9).

Asked about a possible carbon tax to pay for it, Pelosi demurred, saying “there are different ways” to raise revenue. Other ideas mentioned by lawmakers included new taxes on high-speed financial transactions or rolling back a chunk of the 2017 tax cut.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters yesterday he would like to move an infrastructure package, too, but blamed conservatives for blocking it. He refused to say whether he would support a gas tax to pay for it, an option that has funded similar project bills in the past.

“If [Republicans] aren’t going to put real money and have real labor and environmental protections, we’re not going to get anywhere,” said Schumer, noting that he, Pelosi and Trump are expected to meet on the issue in the coming weeks.

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