Even as President Donald Trump continues to take credit for jobs he has not created and kills existing jobs with arbitrary freezes on hiring and spending, Senate Democrats are challenging Trump to make good on his trillion dollar campaign promise to rebuild America's infrastructure. And they are driving a strategic wedge between Trump and congressional Republicans in the process.
One of unpopularly-elected President Donald Trump's core appeals to his voters was his promise of "jobs, jobs, jobs," yet since his narrow and ill-gotten victory, all Trump has done has been to take credit for jobs that were already set before his win, to actually reward a company that shipped 1,300 American jobs to Mexico, and to cause job-threatening chaos in financial markets.
This week, Trump carried that pattern further by enacting a freeze on EPA grants and contracts that affect over 600 contracts with private companies, and a federal hiring freeze that The Military Times says will hurt veterans harder than most:
Veterans looking for work could be among the largest groups affected by the change, since they currently make up about one-third of the federal workforce, according to agency reports.More than 623,000 veterans are currently working in civilian federal posts, of the 2 million-person federal work force.
Veterans-hiring preferences and familiarity with VA and military issues make many of the posts attractive to former servicemembers.
And the federal government is among the biggest employers of disabled veterans as well. About 15 percent of veterans working at VA and nearly 18 percent of veterans at the Defense Department are disabled.
Meanwhile, Senate Democrats, led by Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), are daring Trump to make good on his promises by unveiling their own plan to invest a trillion dollars over ten years on infrastructure, creating 15 million jobs. During a press conference Tuesday, Schumer directly challenged Trump to support their effort:
Our nation’s infrastructure issues are vast, and they go well beyond just road and bridge repair. Senate Democrats have unveiled this blueprint because we need a wide-sweeping infrastructure plan – and we need it now. During his campaign, President Trump talked often about a big and bold infrastructure package. Well, this is one of the most comprehensive overhaul proposals in a generation, and we’re challenging President Trump to work with us on this broad plan that will sustain our positive economic growth, create millions of jobs, and build a modern economy.
There are encouraging signs that the move is already creating some division between Republicans, who have opposed much more modest infrastructure spending, and Trump, whose infrastructure plans have relied heavily on tax credits rather than spending. While taking reporters' questions, Schumer said he had spoken with Trump about the plan, and received encouraging feedback:
REPORTER: You met with him last night. Have you directly discussed infrastructure with him?
SCHUMER: I have, and he seems open to a bill that's this large. And I told him, repeatedly, 'If you want to do a bill like this, you're going to have to tell a lot of your Republicans, particularly on the right wing, that they're not going to get their way,' and he acknowledged that. So we'll see what happens. But that's what he did. And I was told yesterday by some of the labor leaders who were there, that they said, "We need to maintain protections for labor, so these are good paying jobs." And he didn't, he didn't — he didn't oppose it. He's open to it.
Schumer added that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) remain "negative" about the prospect of a large infrastructure bill.
Schumer and the Democrats have stressed that while they are willing to negotiate how the plan will be funded, they will no support plans which cut programs for struggling Americans, or that rely on tax credits for businesses.
If Republicans continue their refusal to act on infrastructure, Trump will have little choice but to work with Democrats to fulfill his campaign promise, or to try to explain why he has broken it.
But the Democrats' plan is not just good strategy — by creating millions of good jobs and making critical improvements to our nation's infrastructure in the process, it is also good policy, and good news for Americans.