Senate Democrats Unveil $1 Trillion Infrastructure Plan

By Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch
Jan 24 2017 |
Photo via YouTube

The plan’s No. 1 rule? Using American-made products.

Looks like Democrats on Capitol Hill are seizing the moment.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) joined a number of senior Senators — including Vermont's Bernie Sanders — at a Capitol Hill press event on Tuesday to introduce a $1 trillion infrastructure investment plan. The Senators took the opportunity to remind everyone that President Trump promised to spend a trillion dollars to rebuild America’s infrastructure and create jobs. Now, the Democrats are pledging to hold him to it.

Here’s Schumer:

“Today, we Senate Democrats are building a blueprint to rebuild America’s infrastructure and create 15 million jobs, and we’re challenging President Trump to support our plan. He campaigned on a promise of bigger and better infrastructure. This plan — this plan — is a way to make it happen.”

To repeat: Schumer and his colleagues claim their plan, if implemented, would create more than 15 million jobs over the next 10 years. It would involve repairing multiple aspects of America’s infrastructure, from roads and bridges to rail systems and pipelines to modernizing Veterans Administration hospitals and repairing public schools and expanding broadband in rural communities. The Democrats also say they will fight for labor and environmental protections, and according to Schumer, will insist that “labor and raw materials come from America.”

“Look, this is kind of a no-brainer,” Sanders said. “Whether you are in the state of Vermont or the state of California, you understand that our infrastructure is crumbling, our roads, our bridges, our water systems, our waste water plants, our airports, our levees and our dams… When we rebuild our infrastructure, we rebuild the middle class.”

The Democrats are obviously making a political play here, arguing that Congressional Republicans have been the ones to block infrastructure spending plans. But they also are right in pointing out that President Trump did promise to spend a trillion dollars to rebuild America’s infrastructure. Now, as the Washington Post noted, they are taking advantage of a chance to “drive a wedge between the new president and congressional Republicans.”

But politics aside, Sanders is right: It is a no-brainer. Duke University’s Center on Globalization, Governance and Competitiveness found that a long-term infrastructure investing plan worth $114 billion annually has the potential to create 2.5 million jobs a year. If Buy America preferences are applied, we have the potential to create even more jobs — and we’ll also boost the economy, make America more competitive, and even strengthen our national security.

And there is growing Republican support, particularly on Buy America. Nearly 20 House Republicans sent Trump a letter prior to his inauguration supporting the president's "Buy American, Hire American" plan, noting that a "comprehensive program to build and rehabilitate our nation's public works infrastructure using domestically-produced iron, steel and other manufactured good and components is in keeping with the intent of America's longstanding domestic content laws."

There's also widespread bipartisan support for infrastructure investment, with Buy America provisions. A 2016 post-election poll found 71 percent of voters say investing in infrastructure is "very" important for the president and Congress to work on, and nearly three in four of them say these projects — if funded with taxpayer dollars — should be built with American workers and materials.