WASHINGTON — The White House and House Democrats have begun talking about another mega-stimulus bill for infrastructure just days after Congress passed and the president signed the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, but Republicans said it’s too soon.
Before the federal government has delivered a dime of that unprecedented stimulus/relief act in response to the coronavirus pandemic, President Donald Trump on Tuesday talked about an infrastructure bill costing $2 trillion and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi touted her already proposed $770 billion bill as a starting place.
“I'm suggesting $2 trillion. We redo our roads, our highways, our bridges, we fix up our tunnels, which are many of them in bad shape, like coming into New York,” Trump said at his Tuesday coronavirus briefing. “And we really do a job on our infrastructure.”
Pelosi (D-Calif.) and key legislators outlined in a call Wednesday with reporters a beefed up version of the $760 billion infrastructure bill House Democrats released in January that adds $10 billion for community health centers and money for broadband, clean water and local governments.
“We’ve been discussing this for the last year with the Democrats and the Republicans,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Wednesday morning on CNBC.
“I’ve had ongoing conversations with Richard Neal on this,” Mnuchin said of the Massachusetts Democrat and chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. “And we’ll continue to have those conversations.”
Trump said this is the time for an infrastructure investment because of zero interest rates.
“With interest rates for the United States being at ZERO, this is the time to do our decades long awaited Infrastructure Bill. It should be VERY BIG & BOLD, Two Trillion Dollars, and be focused solely on jobs and rebuilding the once great infrastructure of our Country! Phase 4,” he tweeted Tuesday.
But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) poured cold water on quickly moving to a fourth bill for recovery.
“Well, look, the current law has not been in effect for even a week yet,” McConnell said on a radio show Wednesday. “I mean the implementation of this — the Treasury Department's got a massive, complicated problem here in getting all of this money out rapidly.”
McConnell added, “And the speaker is already talking about phase four. Well, we may need a phase four, but we’re not even fully into phase three yet.”
Trump has been talking about the need to pass a hefty bill to fix the nation’s roads, bridges and other essential infrastructure as president, but the efforts have failed. Trump has held so many “Infrastructure Week” promotions they’ve become a joke in Washington.
Pelosi said key House Democratic chairmen would discuss the legislation in the next few weeks. If Congress returns to Washington on April 20, as planned, Pelosi said, House committees would begin work on transforming the Democrats’ infrastructure bill to include investments in health care, education and housing.
The Democrats’ $760 billion infrastructure bill is a five-year package, Pelosi said. The president’s $2 trillion proposal is over 10 to 20 years, she said. By the time Democrats add housing and education to their bill, she said, “We’re probably in ballpark of the same amount of investment for the future.”