For the last six months, Donald Trump has insisted, over and over again, that he would only work with Congress on national priorities if Democrats agreed not to scrutinize the president’s many scandals. As recently as February, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said Trump would balk at infrastructure talks if there were oversight investigations.
Evidently, the president and his team were bluffing. A series of investigations are already underway – the West Wing is doing everything it can to stonewall congressional oversight – but the president nevertheless agreed to meet with Democratic leaders to discuss infrastructure, and they apparently agreed on a target.
Democratic congressional leaders said Tuesday that they’d reached an agreement with President Donald Trump to move forward with a “big and bold” $2 trillion infrastructure deal and will meet with him again next month to discuss how to pay for it.
Speaking outside the White House, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calf., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., expressed optimism about their ability to work with the commander in chief, with whom they’ve had a shaky relationship in recent months.
The Democratic leaders said they and Trump had agreed that the package’s price would be $2 trillion and would focus on roads, bridges, highways, water, the power grid and broadband internet expansion. They added that they had agreed with Trump to meet again in three weeks to discuss how to fund the package.
In theory, this may seem like a constructive step forward. Dems want a “big and bold” infrastructure deal; and Trump wants the same thing; so the prospects for progress seem relatively bright.
But it’s not quite that simple.
For one thing, there’s the small matter of how best to come up with $2 trillion. By all accounts, this was a detail today’s participants put aside for a later date. That’s understandable, but it’s difficult to imagine how in the world partisans would reach a bipartisan agreement on this.
For another, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) rejected the idea of a bipartisan infrastructure package months ago.
There’s also the inconvenient fact that Democrats have a fairly progressive vision in mind for infrastructure investments, which would face fierce opposition in the GOP-led Senate, and which bears little resemblance to the White House plan floated a couple of years ago – before Trump’s point person on infrastructure quit because he had nothing to do.
The president had other meaningful opportunities to advance an infrastructure package and he managed to screw up each of them. He’s suddenly interested again, but he shouldn’t get his hopes up.
Indeed, the circumstances suggest he’s taking a big risk even trying. What will Donald “Art of the Deal” Trump say a year from now when he’s tried and failed to reach an agreement on health care, tried and failed to reach an agreement on immigration, and tried and failed to reach an agreement on infrastructure?