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Chuck Schumer challenges Trump on infrastructure

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) announces

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) announces a major infrastructure proposal from Democratic senators during a press conference at the U.S. Capitol January 24, 2017. Credit: Getty Images / Win McNamee

WASHINGTON — Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Tuesday challenged President Donald Trump to sign on to the Democrats’ ambitious $1 trillion plan for rebuilding and improving roads, bridges, schools and other infrastructure over the next decade.

Schumer and other top Senate Democrats said their “blueprint” would create 15 million jobs over 10 years and pushed it as an opening in what they hope will be a negotiation with Trump on one of his campaign promises.

“We’re challenging him to join us,” said Schumer, who said he told Trump he would have to lean on Congressional Republicans who had stymied Democrats’ previous infrastructure proposals if he wants to make it happen.

“Now we have a president-elect [sic] who has called for such a large, large infrastructure bill,” Schumer said. “We will discuss and negotiate with President Trump the methods of paying for it.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he would reject a repeat of former President Barack Obama’s $831 billion stimulus package passed in 2009. But he said he would consider Trump’s infrastructure proposal.

“With regard to what we could be for, my understanding is the administration has a team who are putting together a proposal that we can all take a look at,” McConnell said.

How to pay for this massive domestic work program could be one of the biggest hurdles an infrastructure bill will face.

“I hope it will be something credibly paid for,” McConnell said, rejecting borrowing to pay for it. “We have a $21 trillion debt. But I think we would all like to tackle infrastructure in a credible way and hopefully that’s what they’ll recommend.”

Some Republicans and Trump allies have proposed tax credits to lure businesses to do the work. But Schumer rejected that approach, saying Democrats don’t want all the benefits going to “developers and wealthy people.”

But Schumer also acknowledged his proposal last year to pay for infrastructure work with revenues raised from lowering taxes on overseas profits to encourage companies to return some of the estimated $2 trillion to $3 trillion that they’ve kept out of the United States.

“It’s not going to be nearly enough to fund everything we need,” Schumer said.

In their package, Democrats are proposing $210 billion to repair crumbling roads and bridges; $110 billion for a new water and sewer program; $180 billion to replace and expand rail and bus systems; and $200 billion for “all modes of surface transportation.”

It also includes $75 billion to rebuild schools; $70 billion to modernize ports, airports and waterways; $100 billion on energy projects such as power grids; $20 billion to expand broadband access; $20 billion for facilities on public lands and in Indian country; and $10B for new Veterans Affairs hospitals and extended care facilities.


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