April 7, 2021

Republicans have made it no secret that they believe President Biden's recent $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan contains a far-too-broad definition of infrastructure. The Republican National Committee, for example, is reportedly moving forward with the viewpoint that only "roads, bridges, waterways, ports, and airports" count. As some folks have pointed out, it may be unnecessary to haggle over semantics on some issues, but not even electric grid, water systems, school buildings, broadband, and public housing make the RNC's cut.

Biden, unsurprisingly, is standing by his administration's plan, and on Wednesday he provided several reasons why he believes going beyond traditional infrastructure spending makes sense for the U.S. right now. For starters, he argued infrastructure is an evolving concept and should meet the needs of the moment, likely referring to more modern developments like broadband.

He also appealed to safety and health concerns, specifically mentioning schools. "How many of you know when you send your child to school the fountain they're drinking out of is not fed by lead pipe? How many of you know the school your child is in still has asbestos in the walls? Is that not infrastructure?"

Finally, he turned to China. Beijing, Biden said, is "counting on American democracy to be too slow, too limited, and too divided to keep pace" with its digital infrastructure and research and development programs, so the U.S. needs to invest in those things to prove them wrong. Tim O'Donnell

April 7, 2021

The Biden administration's latest $2.3 trillion spending proposal designates a lot of money to improving roads, bridges, and airports, and expanding broadband. But many Republicans think it should solely focus on infrastructure, and bristle at the inclusion of what they consider separate issues. In an apparent effort to counter that argument, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) tweeted Wednesday that child care, caregiving, and paid leave are, in fact, infrastructure. The message didn't land the way she hoped, it seems.

A few folks on the right, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) speech writer, had some fun with Gillibrand's tweet, painting it as devoid of any serious meaning. "If everything is infrastructure, is anything really infrastructure?" was a common response.

Others predicted Gillibrand's words would backfire and actually give momentum to Republican lawmakers fighting against Biden's plan. Lo and behold, Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.) quickly jumped on it, arguing Gillibrand's "framing" would pave "the road to socialism."

The senator didn't just get heat from conservatives, however. "We don't have to pretend every good thing is 'infrastructure,'" Slate's Jordan Weissman tweeted. Weismann has previously made the case that "agonizing about the exact proportion of infrastructure spending and what counts" in Biden's "infrastructure, energy, and jobs plan" is "not productive," though he added that Biden himself played a role in creating the debate.

At the moment, the Biden administration is content to move forward with the proposal without any Republican support in Congress, instead relying on its popularity with American voters across the political spectrum, but they likely don't want to give the GOP any opportunities to refocus the debate. Tim O'Donnell

April 5, 2021

The White House is launching an aggressive campaign to sell its infrastructure plan to the American public, and suburban women will be a central target, Politico reports.

The coronavirus pandemic has been particularly difficult for suburban women, with many mothers forced to leave the workforce to take over childcare duties amid school closures. Other women have also had to look after ailing parents (expanded elder care is a major aspect of President Biden's proposal, with $400 billion designated to the sector.)

"There's no question that a lot of pieces of this package resonate with suburban women who have been juggling the needs of their families and their jobs during the last year," White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield told Politico. "The work-life balance is never an easy one to strike, but the demands that have been put on many families during the pandemic have made it nearly impossible for many women."

Of course, as Politico notes, suburban women also represent a key voting demographic that helped Democrats retake the House in 2018, as well as the Senate and White House in 2020. Read more at Politico. Tim O'Donnell

April 3, 2019

It will take 80 years to repair all of the bridges in poor condition in the U.S., according to a report from the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA).

Of the 616,087 bridges across the country, 47,052 have been determined as "structurally deficient" and require urgent repairs. An additional 187,000 bridges have a lesser need for repairs, making 38 percent of all bridges in the U.S. in need of some sort of repair. It would cost nearly $171 billion to fix all of them, the ARTBA estimates.

The overall number of structurally deficient bridges has decreased since 2014, per the report, but the rate at which bridges are being fixed has slowed. Last year, ARTBA estimated it would take 37 years for the repairs to take place, reports CNN.

The term "structurally deficient" does not mean the bridges are unsafe for traveling but that they are currently in poor condition. Structurally deficient bridges are currently crossed more than 178 million times each day, according to the report.

A bridge collapse in Chattanooga, Tennessee, made headlines this week in what Tennessee officials are calling a "once in a lifetime accident" caused by a vehicle hitting the bottom of a bridge, reports CNN. The bridge in question was inspected in July of 2018 and deemed structurally fair, per Forbes. Marianne Dodson

January 8, 2018

The Trump administration can't seem to get its infrastructure plan straight, with President Trump and his chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn, contradicting each other within a 24-hour period on how spending will play out, The Washington Post reports. With the infrastructure plan as one of the main legislative goals for 2018, Trump surprised aides by raising doubts Friday about public-private building partnerships. On Saturday, Cohn nevertheless maintained that the administration wants to spend $200 billion to get the ball rolling on nearly $1 trillion in private and local spending.

A White House official said Trump was only "musing aloud" when he made the comments at Camp David and that the administration is expected to go forward with the public-private partnership plan, the Post writes. Trump, though, "doesn't think they will work," the official also admitted. Either way, the president's comments took some administration officials by surprise, as aides have worked for months on the plan and an official proposal is anticipated by the end of the month.

In an attempt to clarify the mixed messages, the White House said Sunday that the infrastructure plan is "very clear" and "based around two main goals: leveraging federal funds as efficiently as possible in order to generate over $1 trillion in infrastructure investment and expediting the burdensome and lengthy permitting process." Jeva Lange

July 24, 2017

President Trump continues to push for a big infrastructure bill, on Twitter and in interviews, but his administration is divided over how Trump's $1 trillion proposal should be structured. At the same time, Republicans have put the plan on the back burner after a series of other difficult and high-stakes legislative priorities, and Democrats, who also support infrastructure projects, are increasingly unwilling to work with the Trump administration after months of mutual animus, Glenn Thrush reports at The New York Times, citing "two dozen administration officials, legislators, and labor leaders involved in coming up with a concrete proposal."

In April, Trump said his administration had the $1 trillion infrastructure plan "largely completed and we'll be filing over the next two or three weeks — maybe sooner." By late July, Trump hasn't named anybody to the infrastructure board he said would have the authority to approve big projects — and the panel will be advisory and not actually have green-light powers, an administration official tells Thrush — or set out a general outline for what he wants.

Some White House officials, like Trump and his National Economic Council chief Gary Cohn, are open to putting more than $200 billion into the proposed public-private partnerships and combining the plan with another must-pass bill; Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin opposes combining the infrastructure and tax-cut legislation; White House budget director Mick Mulvaney reportedly opposes adding new federal money to the plan. Congressional Republicans, still struggling over health-care legislation, are waiting for a White House plan. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is skeptical "of any deal that would require him to compromise with Democrats," Thrush reports, and "has suggested a more modest Republicans-only package."

"Right now, it doesn't appear that they have a plan," said AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka. "The president doesn't know what his own party wants, and he's not sure what he wants." White House spokeswoman Natalie Strom said the White House will release its proposal in late summer or early fall, arguing that was always the timetable. You can read more about Trump's stalled effort at The New York Times. Peter Weber

April 17, 2017

President Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, is reportedly guiding a Chinese billionaire on how to profit off of Trump's promised $1 trillion infrastructure plan, the Financial Times reports. Yan Jiehe, who founded the privately-owned Pacific Construction Group, described Manafort as "Trump's special envoy" and told the Financial Times that Manafort is helping him navigate how to secure construction contracts during Trump's upcoming infrastructure rollout.

"I will not seek out Trump. He will seek me out. In the entire world, I am definitely the most ideal privately owned unit to invest in construction. In the whole world, there's not another company equal to Pacific Construction," said Yan.

Manafort has come under fire recently following reports that he earned tens of millions of dollars secretly working for a Russian billionaire close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. A U.S. official told The Associated Press in March that Manafort is a "leading focus of the U.S. intelligence investigation of Trump's associates and Russia." He recently registered as a foreign agent at the prompting of the U.S. government.

Manafort's spokesman initially denied Manafort's trip to China had been on business before conceding it had been, but he maintained it did not involve any discussion of infrastructure deals. "The Pacific Construction Group was an impromptu meeting added to Mr. Manafort's schedule at their request because the Chinese are interested in U.S. infrastructure," Manafort's spokesman said. "However, his work does not involve any current or future infrastructure projects or contracts in the United States. As he has said before, he is not engaged in government affairs or lobbying for corporations, governments, or individuals."

Read more about why Chinese entrepreneurs are eager to meet with Manafort at the Financial Times. Jeva Lange

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