WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump told Democratic congressional leaders on the eve of a White House meeting to discuss restoring the nation's infrastructure that he first wanted them to pass his replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement.
"Before we get to infrastructure, it is my strong view that Congress should first pass the important and popular USMCA trade deal," Trump wrote in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Tuesday. "It will replace the job killing NAFTA, one of the worst trade deals ever entered into by our nation."
"Once Congress has passed USMCA," Trump continued, "we should turn our attention to a bipartisan infrastructure package."
The White House, which this week removed steel and aluminum tariffs imposed on Canada and Mexico a year ago, wants to build momentum to pass the accord, a major goal of the president as his reelection campaign gets underway.
Pelosi has said that she wants to support the deal, but has demanded changes that would strengthen labor and environmental protections and ensure enforcement of the agreement.
The White House session on Wednesday was scheduled after Trump, Pelosi and Schumer met on April 30 to discuss an infrastructure plan. Schumer and Pelosi said that Trump had agreed to a $2 trillion goal to rebuild U.S. public works but that it was up to the White House to come up with a way to pay for it.
But Trump, in the letter on Tuesday, suggested that he expected the Democrats to do just that.
"It would be helpful, if you came to tomorrow's meeting with your infrastructure priorities and specifics regarding how much funding you would dedicate to each," he said. "Your caucus has expressed a wide range of priorities, and it is unclear which ones have your support. I had hoped that we could have worked out these priorities following our last meeting, but you canceled a scheduled meeting of our teams, preventing them from advancing our discussions."
Pelosi said last week that she wants any initiative to include more than just roads and bridges, but also transit systems, rural broadband, water systems, and even schools and housing.
The offices of Pelosi and Schumer did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday night.