McConnell Says No to Infrastructure Spending as a Priority

The one remaining item in Trump’s campaign promises that would actually have the potential to help working class Americans is his proposal to spend $1 trillion to upgrade our infrastructure. While it is still unclear what the spending plan would look like – and plenty of concerns that it would be more about lining the pockets of construction companies – it still had the possibility to boost job growth. There was also the prospect of creating what Greg Sargent called “a nightmare scenario for progressives.”

Which raises the possibility of a nightmare scenario for economic progressivism. It goes like this: Increased spending helps boost the economy, which is already accelerating, even as Republicans give the credit for it to tax cuts (especially at the top) and deregulation, validating their narrative that Big Government under Obama is what held the economy back from its full potential until President Trump unshackled it.

That’s one of the reasons why I’ve been looking out for any signs about what’s up for this proposal. I’ve already noted that infrastructure spending doesn’t show up on the priority lists of either Mike Pence or Paul Ryan. Given that Trump has basically turned over control of Congressional affairs to his vice-president, it is critical to notice not only the lack of mention from the Speaker, but its failure to make the list for Pence.

Over the weekend I actually listened to the speeches from both the president and vice-president elect in Iowa last week. Trump touted his infrastructure plan, but it didn’t get a mention from Pence. Otherwise, their lists of priorities pretty much overlapped. Interesting…isn’t it? Perhaps there is a disagreement going on in the inner circles of the Trump camp over this issue. We all know that Steve Bannon has been touting the idea of a huge infrastructure plan winning over working class voters. But perhaps that’s all part of the con job. Who knows?

Today, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell became the first Republican to actually put the kibosh on the idea of infrastructure spending as a priority. While touting the fact that Congress will use the budget reconciliation process next month to repeal Obamacare and then again this spring to pass tax cuts, he weighed in with this:

McConnell also voiced skepticism that a multi-trillion dollar infrastructure bill was a good idea or use of the GOP’s time and resources, which could be a departure from Trump who has said infrastructure is a top priority.

Since Congress would be required to pass a bill on infrastructure spending, Trump can go on talking about it forever. But if it’s not on the table for Pence, Ryan or McConnell, nothing is going to actually happen.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.