Wednesday, October 20, 2021

High drama in Congress as Democrats vow to fight for $1.5tn for infrastructure

But lawmakers say their number crunchers have said that whatever Trump proposes, it can’t go any further than the $200bn already in negotiations. Democrats aren’t sure that will do it. They say their members have complained about being shut out of the early talks and they’re worried about increasing the deficit beyond the $1.5tn Trump has previously promised.

“If that money cannot be used, I’m not for it,” Diaz-Balart said. “I don’t want anything to be done that is irresponsible.”

But Trump has expressed confidence that his $200bn estimate will be enough, even if the Democrats do not approve his supplemental plan. In his address to Congress, Trump bragged about getting top Democrats to agree to a whopping $600bn in non-military government spending that he argued has not gotten proper attention.

“Let me be clear: we are rebuilding our country, one project at a time,” Trump said. “Whether it’s rebuilding our military, or our roads, bridges, tunnels, airports, or our schools – we are getting the job done and we are getting it done right.”

Ranking Democrats on the House’s infrastructure committee, however, said in a statement that while their colleagues have “taken significant steps to advance a legislative solution that will make critical projects happen”, “the Administration’s proposal would add trillions to the deficit.” They said their members are concerned that Trump is planning a “PR stunt with riders” that will hurt workers.

The Democrats’ proposal also includes $50bn of spending over a 10-year period, financed by cuts to the overseas military accounts. Lawmakers of both parties are working on a plan that could be included in the House’s sweeping spending bill.

Members of the Florida House delegation say they’ve been unable to clarify how the remaining $800bn could be used.

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“The air is pretty short,” said Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican who represented south Florida for three terms before retiring this year. “Most people don’t realize that there are going to be continuing resolutions for the next five years because it takes time to pay for the bills. So this is not going to go anywhere.”

Other members are nervous that more public criticism could weaken the president. A Pew Research Center poll last spring showed that while majorities of Republicans believe Trump will succeed, more than a third of Democrats are less likely to support him for re-election in 2020 than they were in 2017.

“These guys are losing because of him. And to some extent they’re reaching for the policy argument to deflect their own predicaments,” said Gerry Connolly, a Democrat who represented Virginia’s 11th congressional district for 20 years. “They’re giving him a honey pot.”

Connolly pointed to the House’s failed attempt to deliver justice for Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault. Trump backed the Republican nominee, and he sided with Vice-President Mike Pence to stop Senate proceedings against Kavanaugh until after a new FBI investigation into Ford was complete. Democrats made a last-ditch effort to build support for an alternative nominee and to subpoena Kavanaugh. But after Kavanaugh spoke on the Senate floor, Connolly said, the president went back on his commitment to support legislation by setting up what Connolly called an “adult daycare center” for the Senate Republicans.

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