- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 29, 2020

House Democrats announced their framework for a $760 billion infrastructure plan Wednesday morning, but they didn’t explain how they plan to pay for it.

The five-year plan is not a fully formed piece of legislation but serves as a foundation for bills down the line. Democrats are hoping use the plan to move beyond renovating bridges and roads to addressing climate change and access to broadband.

“This is just one part of what we will be doing when we have our legislative week on infrastructure,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.

The package proposes $329 billion for roads and bridges, $55 billion for passenger rail, $30 billion for airport renovations, $50.5 billion for wastewater projects, $86 billion for expanding broadband to rural areas and urban deserts, and $12 billion for an updated 911 system.

The framework is spearheaded by the heads of three House committees — Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter DeFazio, Oregon Democrat, Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, New Jersey Democrat, and Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal, Massachusetts Democrat.

Democrats have not established a timetable for voting on the legislation, with Mrs. Pelosi noting it will be “when we’re ready.”

Theoretically, infrastructure should be one of the easier tasks that lawmakers handle. Both parties generally agree it’s something the federal government has the power to do and that it can pay dividends if done correctly. Plus, major projects in lawmakers’ states or districts help on the campaign front.

The divisive issue is money.

Democrats and the White House have attempted to hammer out a bipartisan deal on infrastructure, even getting as far as to have President Trump sign on to a tentative $2 trillion plan in the spring.

Hopes were quickly dashed.

Mr. Trump abruptly ended a meeting about infrastructure with Mrs. Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer as the House was picking up steam on the impeachment front.

Democrats floated a few suggestions on potential revenue sources, including bonds and user fees, but are leaving a payment plan until Republicans agree to come to the negotiating table.

“I think it’s really important that we don’t volunteer a revenue stream until the administration reaches an agreement with us,” Mr. Neal said.

Wednesday afternoon, the House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing on potential solutions on paying for future infrastructure projects.

Despite the bumpy start with Mr. Trump in the spring, House Democrats are holding out hope he will want to cooperate on a deal, despite heading into an election year and despite his impeachment.

“We both want to do infrastructure and we both thought investing in infrastructure was necessary in order to create jobs and have our country be competitive,” said Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, on Tuesday. “We both have a responsibility to the American people trying to accomplish good things for our country and for them and their families.”

Mr. Hoyer added, “We don’t believe there’s a chance of passing a substantive piece of legislation without the president’s support of something he said he was going to do.”

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