House Democrats Propose Sweeping Infrastructure Revitalization for Next Stimulus
WASHINGTON – House Democrats unveiled a wide-ranging and ambitious plan Wednesday to significantly make over the nation’s infrastructure while also tamping down on the economic distress caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
“We need to invest in our infrastructure to address some of the critical impacts and vulnerabilities that have been laid bare by the coronavirus,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said during a late morning conference call with reporters.
“We can create millions of good-paying jobs building the infrastructure and by strengthening commerce and reducing air pollution that harms the public health,” she added.
The plan unveiled by the Democrats calls for the next coronavirus-related stimulus bill to include at least $760 billion to be spent over the next five years on highway and bridge refurbishment, scores of potable and wastewater projects, renewable energy investments, brownfield restoration and the expansion of broadband service to rural and other underserved communities.
In addition the plan calls for $10 billion to be invested in community health centers, affordable housing and education.
The proposal, which was outlined by Pelosi, House Majority Whip James Clyburn, and Reps. Peter DeFazio, chair of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and Frank Pallone, Jr., chair of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, closely mirrors the infrastructure package House Democrats unveiled in January
Pelosi told reporters the proposal is “legislatively ready to go,” but quickly added that the House could not vote on the proposal until it reconvenes in late April.
“I think we come back April 20, God willing and coronavirus willing. But shortly thereafter we should be able to move forward,” Pelosi said.
She also said she hopes to see the plan garner widespread support across the aisle.
“Interest in infrastructure has always been bipartisan,” she explained. “It’s never been partisan and we don’t intend for it to be partisan now.”
Pelosi has said the $2.2 trillion package signed into law last week, Congress’s third virus-related bill, was aimed at rescuing the U.S. economy as businesses close and people stay home amid the spreading viral outbreak.
She and her fellow Democrats agreed the next measure — the fourth phase of virus response, which Congress plans to take up after April 20 — will be intended to stimulate an economic rebound.
Among the other measures included in the bill will be a series of “buy American” provisions to ensure investment in U.S. companies.
House Majority Whip Clyburn, D-S.C., told reporters that he is particularly concerned the coronavirus outbreak will exacerbate already existing inequalities in access to health care and in areas such as education.
“I am very concerned that things are going to get worse in rural and poor areas,” Clyburn said, explaining proposals like those for the community health care centers and broadband expansion are time-tested means for preventing that from happening.
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump called on Congress to consider an infrastructure package that would be “focused solely on jobs and rebuilding the once great infrastructure of our country!”
Pelosi said Wednesday that House Democrats are “pleased the president has returned to his interest in it.”
The House speaker said the House proposal is in “the same ballpark” as the president’s wishes.
Both sides appear to envision the plan being financed by borrowing at the current, historically low interest rates.
Infrastructure talks stalled last year after Democrats said the White House would release a plan to pay for as much as $2 trillion in infrastructure. That discussion broke down when Democrats said Trump demanded they halt investigations of the president and his businesses.
But if Democrats believe they are on the same page as the president, they don’t appear to have the same level of understanding with their Republican colleagues in the Senate.
In a radio interview on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would prefer to see what effect the just-passed stimulus bill has on the economy before moving forward with another installment.
“What I disagree with the speaker on is that she’s already saying we need to work on phase four. Well look, the current law has not been in effect for even a week yet,” McConnell said during the interview.
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