White House Meeting on Infrastructure Implodes

On Monday, May 20, expectations were sky high with the realization that President Trump, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer were planning a second meeting, ostensibly to discuss funding a previously agreed-upon $2 trillion infrastructure bill.

On Tuesday, May 21, National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association President and CEO Michael W. Johnson sent a letter to President Trump and Congressional leaders urging them to fix America’s infrastructure. “Tomorrow is an opportunity for leadership of historic proportions to fix America’s crumbling infrastructure … I am greatly encouraged by the agreement reached in your April 30 meeting to address an infrastructure package of $2 trillion. The time is now to identify the funding for such a package and get America’s infrastructure back on track.”

But before that letter was even likely read, Trump wrote his own letter to Pelosi and Schumer, saying, “Before we get to infrastructure, it is my strong view that Congress should first pass the important and popular USMCA trade deal.” That threw water on the entire proceedings.

It got even worse Wednesday, May 22, when Trump told Democratic leaders at the White House he couldn’t work with them while they were pursuing investigations into him and his administration. The much anticipated meeting, and hoped for agreement on funding our nation’s crumbling roads and bridges, lasted all of a few minutes, and resulted in nothing.

“Today’s anticipated White House meeting on infrastructure did not resolve funding issues and did not progress the issue,” Johnson said. “Political posturing took precedence today, but the issue of infrastructure is not over. Any issue that has taken over 30 years to reach a point where both parties want to resolve it, is going to have its share of stumbling blocks. Amidst today’s posturing, rhetoric and standoff, we did hear the president and congressional Democrats reiterate that they each want to get infrastructure done. This will be a process. NSSGA continues to be a player on this important issue and our efforts over the past several weeks have and will provide value as we continue forward.

“So, what does this mean for us? We must continue the push forward,” Johnson said. “Collectively, we must represent the interests of our industry and urge our elected representatives to craft a bill and pass it in the House and Senate. And along the way, we must continue to urge President Trump to work with Congress to fund infrastructure. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Today, a meeting did not go as planned. Nothing more, nothing less. Both sides want to do infrastructure. We must continue our advocacy efforts now in a consistent, sustained manner. If we want policymakers to resolve this, we have to be the ones that remain positive and focused on the end goal. Congress and the president must fund infrastructure now, and we must let them know that time and again. Make sure your representatives hear from you on this issue by sending grassroots letters to your representatives, senators and the president. Use the social messages and talking points we’ve given you. Keep the drum beat going so that when the parties do come together, our strong voice has been heard.” 

American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) President and CEO Dave Bauer released the following statement regarding the ill-fated meeting on infrastructure.

“Sadly, it appears political theatrics won the day,” Bauer said. “But, the breakdown of the talks does not change several fundamental truths about America’s transportation network. There are 235,000 U.S. bridges in need of repair or major rehabilitation. The federal Highway Trust Fund remains in a world of financial hurt. When the current law expires in October 2020,there will be an $18 billion average annual shortfall between incoming trust fund revenues and what’s needed to maintain current federal highway and transit investment levels. Absent congressional action or a new revenue stream, states could face a 40% cut in investment starting in 2021. 

“The heavy lift of writing new legislation always rested on congressional shoulders,” Bauer concluded. “We urge bipartisan members of the House and Senate to complete action in a timely manner on the big and bold transportation infrastructure investment package that the U.S. economy, motorists and business community deserve.”

Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) President Dennis Slater issued the following statement: 

“We cannot let politics get in the way of good public policy,” he said. “Infrastructure is a bipartisan issue. Millions of Americans would benefit from fixing and modernizing our nation’s roads, highways, and bridges, and expanding rural communities’ access to broadband internet. Voters sent their elected officials to Washington to deliver on their promises to make their communities and our nation stronger. Democrats and Republicans alike are committed to this issue. We urge them to come back to the table and continue the important work they’ve started to modernize and fund our nation’s infrastructure.”

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