WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump on Tuesday joined a growing chorus of lawmakers and lobbyists proposing massive spending on infrastructure in the next coronavirus stimulus bill, calling for a $2 trillion investment. And his endorsement appeared to embrace borrowing to pay for it.
"With interest rates for the United States being at ZERO, this is the time to do our decades long awaited Infrastructure Bill," Trump tweeted. "It should be VERY BIG & BOLD, Two Trillion Dollars, and be focused solely on jobs and rebuilding the once great infrastructure of our Country!"
House Ways and Means Committee Democrats followed with a tweet of their own noting the position of their chairman, Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass.
"@RepRichardNeal supports infrastructure investments being part of the next coronavirus response legislation. Let's get to work!"
That both Democrats and Republicans agree that there's a need for massive infrastructure investment is nothing new -- they agreed on that long before the coronavirus began spreading overseas. The question of how to pay for such an investment, though, has been a matter of rancorous debate, even within party caucuses.
But the urgent nature of the pandemic and an economy on life support has changed the nature of the debate, said Jim Tymon, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
"You need to look holistically at what it means to stimulate the economy," he said. "If you're going to want to come out of the crisis and be ready to go out there and reinvigorate the economy, there's a lot of benefit" to infrastructure investment, he said.
Spending on infrastructure "has the short-term benefit of putting people back to work quickly and the long term benefit of making improvements to the transportation network and we'll have those benefits for years to come," he said.
Kyle Pomerleau, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, said the pandemic has reordered priorities.
During an emergency as all-encompassing as the coronavirus, pay-fors aren't as important as emerging from the crisis itself. "It would be kind of odd if you were talking about perfectly crafted pay-fors during this time," he said.