About That Infrastructure Package ...

About That Infrastructure Package ...

Brian Snyder

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday that the next phase of coronavirus stimulus legislation should include at least $760 billion over five years for water projects, broadband and transportation as well as $10 billion for community health centers and money for housing and education.

“We need to invest in our infrastructure to address some of the critical impacts and vulnerabilities that have been laid bare by the coronavirus,” Pelosi said on a call with reporters, according to Bloomberg News.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC something similar Wednesday, per Politico: “The president very much wants to rebuild the country. And with interest rates low, that’s something that is very important to him. We’ve been discussing this for the last year, with the Democrats and the Republicans. I’ve had ongoing conversations with [House Ways and Means Committee Chairman] Richie Neal on this. We’ll continue to have those conversations. So, we expect there will be more bills. And we think it is a great time now to invest in infrastructure.”

Pelosi reportedly also said her proposal, based on the infrastructure plan House Democrats outlined in late January, is “probably in the same ballpark” as President Trump’s call Tuesday morning for a $2 trillion infrastructure package, given that the Democratic plan is for five years while the president’s (presumably) is spread over 10 years.

So infrastructure should be easy peasy, right? Of course not.

As Politico notes, we’re still a long way from consensus on the next phase of coronavirus stimulus — and climate politics could be a significant obstacle to getting there, as Republicans are likely to rebuff provisions resembling the “Green New Deal.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy reportedly said Wednesday that Republicans stand ready to work in a bipartisan fashion to fight the effects of the coronavirus, but he also warned against “continued attempts to force partisan objectives into our response." And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that he prefers to see how Congress’s last coronavirus package works before turning to additional legislation. McConnell also said that he’s “not going to allow this to be an opportunity for the Democrats to achieve unrelated policy items that they would not otherwise be able to pass.”

The bottom line: Everybody supports the idea of an infrastructure package in principle, but the critical details — how much to spend, what to spend it on and how to pay for it — are where past efforts have broken down. Will the coronavirus crisis provide enough incentive to overcome those differences and push through something big?