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The once-promising possibility of cooperation between President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats on an effort to provide a face-lift to the nation’s infrastructure appears to have eroded even before it's started.
On Monday, Trump announced a plan to privatize the Federal Aviation Air Traffic Control system, which is the first part of a week-long roll out of his infrastructure ideas, an issue he campaigned on since his first days as a candidate when he called the country’s airports comparable to those in the “third world.”
But Democrats, who agree with him on broad principle, immediately slammed Trump’s plan, saying that his ideas will go nowhere in Congress.
“Trump's ideas for privatizing Air Traffic Control — which recycle a tired Republican plan that both sides of the aisle have rejected — would hand control of one of our nation’s most important public assets to special interests and the big airlines,” House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.
Infrastructure was one area that Democrats said they might be able to work with Trump because of his campaign and post-election pledges to spend a trillion dollars on aging roads, bridges and other projects. Democrats have long advocated more resources for infrastructure. In addition to the one-quarter of a billion dollars spent in the 2009 stimulus bill, Democrats pushed for another nearly $1 trillion of federal funding under President Barack Obama, something Republicans strongly opposed and successfully blocked.
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In a meeting between Trump and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer in January, Schumer said he spoke to Trump about his ideas.
“If he's serious about bringing jobs, he would support By America provisions and he would back our new trillion-dollar infrastructure bill which we announced earlier today,” Schumer told reporters about what he discussed with Trump.
But any possibility for a bipartisan effort quickly faded, especially after Trump released his budget last month. That plan included $200 billion to spur private partnerships in infrastructure but also makes $144 billion worth of cuts to existing federal infrastructure programs, including the elimination of the TIGER program, an Obama-era program to fund mass transit programs.
Schumer referenced the budget's plan in a statement released Monday as Trump announced his ATC overhaul.
“The entire focus of the President’s infrastructure ‘proposal’ is on privatization, which sounds like a nice word but when you scratch beneath the surface it means much less construction and far fewer jobs, particularly in rural areas. It means Trump tolls from one end of America to the other, and huge profits for financiers who, when they put up the money want to be repaid by the average driver, worker and citizen,” Schumer said.
Trump is expected to unveil more components of his infrastructure plan each day this week.