In a major announcement on Tuesday, President Donald Trump said that the coronavirus crisis and its accompanying ultra-low interest rates is providing the nation with a golden opportunity that may not ever come along again.
“With interest rates for the United States being at ZERO, this is the time to do our decades long awaited Infrastructure Bill,” Trump tweeted Tuesday. “It should be VERY BIG & BOLD, Two Trillion Dollars, and be focused solely on jobs and rebuilding the once great infrastructure of our Country! Phase 4.”
A major infrastructure bill has been part of President Trump’s agenda since before he ever took office, and now he wants to make it an essential component of the next coronavirus stimulus bill out of Washington. While lawmakers in the House and Senate are already whispering about a potential fourth bill, there is some growing concern on Capitol Hill about the ramifications of appropriating yet further trillions on top of the money already spent.
“I think the odds are we’ll need more legislation. First, we don’t know the extent of the crisis in terms of the magnitude, so that could rise. But there are going to be problems that we don’t realize now that we’re going to have to grapple with,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said. “So I think the odds are high there will be a COVID-4.”
But while Democrats are looking to stuff a fourth stimulus bill full of additional food stamp funding and bizarre non sequiturs like emissions restrictions for the airline industry, Republicans in the House and Senate are urging a more cautious approach.
“I think we’ll have to wait and see,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said. “Remember, this bill was only signed into law last Friday. So it’s only been law for about four days. And the Speaker is already talking about another bill.”
A massive infrastructure bill could mean an enormous number of new jobs and federal contracts in addition to an overall economic stimulus. It also benefits from being an issue that can gain support on both sides of the aisle; Nancy Pelosi was actually just endorsing the idea of funding infrastructure in a Phase 4 bill herself, and Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) said the idea had his support as well.
“I think the Speaker’s right that infrastructure would be a good place to start because that’s something that’s the responsibility of the federal government to begin with,” said Cramer. “In terms of the recovery, yeah, I think there might be some things that we need to do. What I don’t want to do is to get out ahead of our skis and start making massive policy changes that reflect political extremes.”
Exactly. An infrastructure bill – provided that it’s done responsibly and not just as an ideological blank check – could bring Americans together at a time when we desperately need to do so. If Trump and Pelosi can get together on this, it could make for an exciting piece of legislation.
Alas, knowing how Democrats like to play games with this stuff, we’re not going to hold our breath.