The president sent his letter to Pelosi and Schumer one day before he was scheduled to meet with Congressional Democrats for a second round of infrastructure discussions.
President Donald Trump on Tuesday told Democratic Congressional leaders to pass the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement before focusing on an infrastructure package.
The letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., was sent one day before a second round of infrastructure talks was scheduled for Wednesday between President Trump and Congressional Democrats at the White House.
“Before we get to infrastructure, it is my strong view that Congress should first pass the important and popular USMCA trade deal,” the president wrote. “Once Congress has passed USMCA, we should turn our attention to a bipartisan infrastructure package.”
Last month, President Trump agreed with Pelosi and Schumer to aim for a $2 trillion package for infrastructure spending that would modernize America’s surface transportation system, mass transit, airport, ports and waterways, among other areas.
“The highway trust fund is essentially bankrupt and needs to be reauthorized by September 2020,” the president wrote. “Hence, we believe that reauthorization is the best vehicle to achieve our goals.”
There was no agreement, however, during April’s meeting about how to pay for the infrastructure plan. The second round of talks was meant to focus on the president’s plan to fund the package, Schumer said following the first meeting, and White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the second meeting would include “specific proposals and financing methods.”
In a joint statement issued Tuesday, Pelosi and Schumer said they “look forward to hearing the president’s plan for how to pay for this package.”
“In our conversations with the president, Democrats will continue to insist on our principles: that any plan we support be big, bold and bipartisan; that it be comprehensive, future-focused, green and resilient; and that it be a jobs and ownership boost with strong Buy America, labor and women, veteran and minority-owned business protections,” they said in the statement.
In his letter, President Trump told Pelosi and Schumer to come to Wednesday’s meeting with their infrastructure priorities and specifics regarding how much funding they would like dedicated to each.
“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 discussions,” President Trump wrote. “Nevertheless, I remain committed to passing an infrastructure bill.”
But there has not been a single vote on USMCA, which was signed by President Trump, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on Nov. 30. President Trump wrote in the letter USMCA would “boost employment growth and create millions of high-wage jobs” and benefit farmers, manufacturing workers, unions and business leaders.
House Democrats, though, are seeking increased labor, environment, enforcement and pharmaceutical provisions in USMCA, which has stronger provisions in these areas than NAFTA. The House Ways and Means Committee had a hearing scheduled for Wednesday about the enforcement of the new trade agreement.
USMCA is estimated to raise real U.S. GDP by $68.2 billion (0.35%) and U.S. employment by 176,000 jobs (0.12%) if fully implemented, according to a report by the U.S. International Trade Commission. Exports to Canada and Mexico would increase by $19.1 billion (5.9%) and $14.2 billion (6.7%), respectively, and imports from Canada and Mexico would grow by $19.1 billion (4.8%) and $12.4 billion (3.8%).
Vice President Mike Pence on Monday during a speech in Florida urged Congress to “pass the USMCA this summer.”
“We’re calling on Speaker Pelosi and the Democrats in the Congress to step forward to support the USMCA and when it makes it to the president’s desk, we’re very confident that our neighbors in Mexico and in Canada will adopt it as well,” Pence told reporters following his speech at an event organized by America First Policies. “We’ll have a whole new framework for prosperity here in North America that I believe is going to benefit the people of this country for generations.”