On the eve of a highly anticipated meeting with Democrats at which President Donald Trump was expected to unveil a way to fund a $2 trillion infrastructure proposal, Trump instead put Congress on notice that it will have to take a backseat to a trade deal.
“Before we get to infrastructure, it is my strong view that Congress should first pass the important and popular USMCA trade deal,” Trump wrote in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer Tuesday evening.
The White House has been working feverishly behind the scenes for months to try to pass the USMCA by the end of this summer, but Democrats still have a number of concerns about various provisions of the trade deal. There is no guarantee USMCA will pass, despite the administration’s ground work.
He also stipulated that his preference is to meld any infrastructure package with a recurring reauthorization for highway and transit programs, all but assuring a less ambitious package dedicated to traditional transportation uses, instead of a broad-spectrum vision of funding everything from veterans hospitals to broadband.
Leaders from both parties have insisted that leadership from Trump was an essential ingredient for passing an infrastructure bill, with Democrats hoping that Republicans would support a gas tax increase or other revenue source if Trump did. They have been clear since their April 30 meeting, at which Trump and Democrats agreed to pursue a $2 trillion plan, that Trump needed to be the one to propose a funding source.
However, in his letter released Tuesday night, Trump laid out his own expectations, suggesting it was Democrats’ own vision that had gotten muddled and urging that they pare down their wish list.