WASHINGTON — Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi emerged from a meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House on Tuesday touting “constructive” talks on infrastructure policy, and announcing both sides had agreed to pursue a $2 trillion spending deal to upgrade the nation’s roads, transportation hubs and communications systems.
Though the meeting was held amid a standoff between Trump and House Democrats over a series of congressional probes launched in the wake of the Mueller report release, the investigations did not come up during Tuesday’s more than hourlong session, Schumer and Pelosi told reporters after the meeting.
“It was a very constructive meeting. It's clear that both the White House and all of us want to get something done on infrastructure in a big and bold way,” said Schumer (D-N.Y.). “And there was goodwill in this meeting, and that was different from some of the other meetings that we've had, which is a very good thing.”
Pelosi said Trump agreed to meet with Democrats again in about three weeks to resume discussions on how to pay for the plan. Schumer said the onus was on Trump to develop a plan to fund the deal.
"We came to this meeting with an understanding that there is great need in our country for rebuilding our infrastructure," Pelosi said.
Schumer said lawmakers initially pitched a $1 trillion spending package, but said it was Trump who "was eager to push it up to $2 trillion. That is a very good thing."
Schumer and Pelosi’s optimistic tone after the meeting stood in contrast to their last meeting with Trump in January, when he walked out amid a stalemate over immigration funding and ending the ongoing government shutdown.
Tuesday's meeting occurred against the backdrop of escalating tensions between Trump and House Democrats who have issued a series of subpoenas seeking the president’s financial records and demanding key administration officials testify before House panels. Trump has pushed back on the subpoenas at every turn, ordering administration officials not to testify before Congress, and filing a pair of federal lawsuits in the past two weeks to block the release of his business records.
Trump, who warned Democrats in his State of the Union address this year that “if there is going to peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation," did not bring up the Democratic probes, Schumer said.
“In previous meetings, the president has said 'if these investigations continue, I can’t work with you.’ He didn’t bring it up,” Schumer said. “I believe we can do both at once. We can come up with some good ideas on infrastructure … and the House and the Senate can proceed with its oversight responsibility. The two are not mutually exclusive, and we were glad he didn’t make it that way.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders in a statement said Trump and Democrats would also meet “in the near future” to discuss lowering prescription drug prices, adding that Trump “looks forward to working together in a bipartisan way and getting things done for the American people.”
“We have to invest in this country’s future and bring our infrastructure to a level better than it has ever been before,” Sanders said. “We will have another meeting in three weeks to discuss specific proposals and financing methods.”
White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, speaking at an economic conference in California, had a less optimistic take on reaching a deal, saying: “It’s not reasonable to expect the president to work with you on Monday on a big infrastructure bill and have you punching him in the face on Tuesday on 15 investigations.”
Republicans were not invited to Tuesday's meeting, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, speaking to reporters on Tuesday, rejected a previous plan floated by Democrats to roll back tax cuts passed under the GOP's 2017 tax plan to pay for infrastructure projects. McConnell called any idea of reopening the 2017 tax bill to raise taxes on the wealthy "a nonstarter."
With Tom Brune