House Democrats on Wednesday revived their massive infrastructure bill as the next step for coronavirus relief legislation to jumpstart the shuttered economy and said they are ready to move when lawmakers return to Washington later this month.
A day after President Trump called for a $2 trillion “very big and bold” infrastructure spending plan, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi answered with Democrats’ spending bill that’s in the “ballpark of the same amount of investment for the future,” she said.
The foundation for the fourth round of government coronavirus relief legislation is a $760 billion, five-year infrastructure plan the Democrats unveiled in January to fix crumbling roads, bridges and transit systems. Democrats will then add in more money for forthcoming education and housing infrastructure proposals, as well as $10 billion for community health centers, funding for voting by mail and state and local governments, Pelosi said.
“My motto is resting is rusting,” Pelosi said on a phone call with reporters Wednesday. “We’re just always working to make sure that when the opportunity is there, we are ready. And not only that, to try to create the opportunity.”
Just days after signing a historic $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package — the third and biggest passed so far — Trump took to Twitter to call for another round of investment to reboot the economy, but with a focus on infrastructure.
While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been cool to another round of massive spending, Pelosi and House Democrats praised Trump’s call to action and said they’ve been ready to work with him on rebuilding the nation’s critical infrastructure from Day One of his presidency and now is the chance.
“We come back April 20 — God willing and coronavirus willing,” Pelosi said. “But shortly thereafter, we should be able to move forward [on the fourth bill.]”
Among the priorities in the infrastructure plan are rebuilding the drinking water supply lines, the power grid, broadband access, public transit systems and expanding rail lines. House Transportation Committee chairman Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., said the focus will be building with “green” energy in mind, such as electric cars and trucks and using more environmentally safe materials.
DeFazio brushed aside the criticism he got for proposing in the last coronavirus bill provisions for airlines to reduce carbon emissions as a condition for their government rescue money.
“There’s going to be objections to this,” DeFazio said. “Mitch McConnell made fun of my provisions. But the airlines agreed to reduce their carbon pollution dramatically and quickly to be carbon neutral by 2025. It’s time, you know, to get serious about this.”
DeFazio added: “In rebuilding our infrastructure, we have a unique opportunity. No one disagrees it needs to be rebuilt. Rebuild it in a way that looks to the future … and also deals with climate change and carbon pollution at the same time. It’s a no brainer from my perspective.”
Before the ink was dry on the historic $2.2 trillion stimulus package that gave direct payments to Americans, boosted unemployment and gave a lifeline to businesses, lawmakers from both sides were eyeing a fourth round of legislation.
Trump has sought a major infrastructure bill ever since taking office and would appear to be pitching that plan anew as a form of economic stimulus. The president’s tweet this week comes as lawmakers in both the House and the Senate already are eyeing a fourth coronavirus response bill, though some have voiced caution about continuing to appropriate such massive sums of money.
Even senior administration officials told Fox Business on Wednesday the White House is still focused on implementing the third bill, before moving on to a fourth. The officials called any buildout of an infrastructure bill “preliminary.”
Fox Business Network’s Blake Burman and Fox News’ Brooke Singman contributed to this report.