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White House signals the demise of Trump's infrastructure plan

Traffic moves north along Interstate 270, Nov. 24, 2010, in Clarksburg, Md., the day before the Thanksgiving Holiday. (Photo by Carolyn Kaster/AP)
Traffic moves north along Interstate 270, Nov. 24, 2010, in Clarksburg, Md., the day before the Thanksgiving Holiday.

As recently as late March, Donald Trump headlined an event in Ohio to promote his infrastructure agenda. Six weeks later, the president's plan appears to be dead.

At yesterday's press briefing, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked whether we'll ever see legislation to advance Trump's infrastructure initiative. She replied:

"We're going to continue to look at ways to improve the nation's infrastructure. But in terms of a specific piece of legislation, I'm not aware that that will happen by the end of the year."

The comments only made official what most observers assumed to be true. Indeed, in early April, DJ Gribbin, the White House's top infrastructure adviser, announced his resignation, apparently because he didn't have much to do.

As we discussed at the time, Gribbin had worked for months to craft the president's infrastructure plan, but once it was complete, the blueprint, designed to pass the Republican-led Congress, landed on Capitol Hill with a thud.

The reason was simple: it was based on bizarre arithmetic: Trump and his team insisted they could spur $1.5 trillion in investments by spending $200 billion, nearly all of which would come from cuts to other transportation priorities.

After the 2016 election, a leading Trump World staffer -- I believe his name was Steve Bannon -- talked up an ambitious vision on this issue. "I'm the guy pushing a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. With negative interest rates throughout the world, it's the greatest opportunity to rebuild everything," he said at the time. "Shipyards, ironworks, get them all jacked up. We're just going to throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks. It will be as exciting as the 1930s, greater than the Reagan revolution -- conservatives, plus populists, in an economic nationalist movement."

Jon Chait joked yesterday, "As it turned out, we have reprised much of the excitement of the 1930s -- presidents demanding the imprisonment of journalists and members of the opposing party, Nazis holding torchlight parades -- but no infrastructure bill has materialized."

And in all likelihood, one never will, in large part because the president never appeared serious about the policymaking.