(Bloomberg) — President Donald Trump called for $2 trillion in spending on U.S. roads, bridges and tunnels, seizing on the coronavirus outbreak and record low interest rates to advance one of his longest-standing priorities.
Speaking at his daily coronavirus briefing on Tuesday evening, Trump said low rates would allow the country to borrow cheaply to finance spending on infrastructure. He said none of the funds should go toward environmental initiatives called for in the Democrats’ Green Deal.
Infrastructure spending could help blunt the surge in unemployment and businesses failures expected to result from the coronavirus pandemic and economic shutdown.
The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits is forecast to set a record for the second straight week, following 3.28 million in last week’s data. The darkest predictions are for that figure to almost double, the result of business closures and government efforts to keep people at home to prevent spreading the virus.
The American Society of Civil Engineers has said more than $2 trillion in additional funding is needed for U.S. infrastructure by 2025 alone. The World Economic Forum this year ranked the U.S. 13th in matters of infrastructure, according to its global competitiveness report. Nations listed higher included Singapore, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Japan, Korea and Spain.
The White House and Congress have begun circling the idea of a fourth round of stimulus to combat economic fallout from the coronavirus outbreak. Both Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have begun floating ideas for such a measure, just days after Trump signed a $2 trillion virus-related bill.
Trump pledged in his 2016 campaign to seek $1 trillion in infrastructure spending and called on Congress in his 2018 State of the Union address to dedicate $1.5 trillion in new investment. But the plan Trump proposed in 2018 went nowhere because of disagreement over how much federal funding would be included.
Any hopes for a federal bill ended last May when Democrats said the president walked out of a meeting on a $2 trillion proposal and vowed not to work with them unless they stopped investigating him and his administration.
Lawmakers who attended a closed-door meeting with Trump in February 2018 said he told them he’d support a 25-cent per-gallon increase in gas taxes, but Trump never publicly endorsed the idea. The plan drew opposition from Republicans who don’t want to raise taxes and Democrats worried about the impact on low-income residents.
Pelosi, a California Democrat, last week raised the prospect of infrastructure legislation as part of the next round of fiscal stimulus. “Our next bill will lean toward recovery, how we can create good-paying jobs as we go forward, perhaps building the infrastructure of America,” she said.
In an MSNBC interview Tuesday, Pelosi specifically mentioned broadband and water projects as examples of infrastructure works that would be relevant to the coronavirus response.
Read more: Why Trump’s Infrastructure Push Stalled: QuickTake
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