What’s up with Trump’s Big Infrastructure Plan?

Now that it’s clear that the GOP tax cuts are designed to hurt the poor and middle class while benefiting the president and his wealthy friends, it might be a good time to assess where things stand with Trump’s big “populist” promise to pass a gigantic infrastructure plan.

Jonathan Swan checked in on that recently. Apparently there’s been a meeting.

Senior administration officials met last week in the Roosevelt Room to discuss when they might finally turn the president’s infrastructure promises into reality, and how a communications plan might be developed…

Per one source, White House political director Bill Stepien said the group needed to consider the midterm elections when deciding when to finally make their big push. Some in the White House are skeptical that infrastructure will drive Republican voters to the polls.

Bottom line: The White House doesn’t seem any closer to having an infrastructure bill than it was six months ago. When I asked one senior official when infrastructure would happen, he laughed and said: “Good question!”

From the beginning of Trump’s presidency, I’ve been bearish on the prospects of him ever following through on this promise. Congressional Republicans just aren’t very keen on things like this and the president has gone out of his way to alienate Democrats, who might have been willing to support the right kind of infrastructure plan.

According to Politico, this administration has problems that go even deeper than that. Last week Trump suggested that welfare reform will be their next agenda item after tax cuts. But on Thanksgiving day, he tweeted “we will Repeal & Replace right after Tax Cuts!” The truth is, the White House has no idea what their next agenda item will be.

The looming vacuum in the Republican agenda underscores how the relative chaos and disorganization of the Trump White House can affect policymaking across Washington. Former administration officials say the situation is virtually unprecedented, and that it is threatening the president’s ability to score legislative victories for the GOP heading into next year’s midterm elections. It may also cost Trump personally once the 2020 reelection campaign begins in earnest about a year from now.

“There is very little in the pipeline, and no obvious next item on the agenda after tax reform except maybe a return to health care,” said Yuval Levin, the editor of National Affairs, a leading conservative policy journal, who works closely with Republicans on Capitol Hill. “Combine that with a president who doesn’t think in terms of policy, and you’ve got no clear next step.”

When it comes to infrastructure, congressional Republicans aren’t going to take the lead on that one. Given the disorganization and chaos coming from the White House, it looks as though they’re not up to the task either. So it just isn’t going to happen.

In terms of what the next agenda item will actually be, Speaker Paul Ryan has said that it will be welfare reform. Given that Trump seems to be increasingly motivated to rile up his racist base, it isn’t surprising that he has been floating interest in welfare reform as well—something he didn’t address directly during the campaign. But he’ll be drawn to the idea of getting to talk about cutting off “those” people that are taking advantage of the system.

If that is the case, the legislative agenda so far will have included an attempt to take health care away from millions of Americans, give tax cuts to the wealthy and shred the social safety net. Can we kill the pairing of the words “populist” and “Trump” finally and forever?

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.