Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC on Wednesday that he is part of ongoing discussions with congressional lawmakers about a potential infrastructure bill that would be designed to help boost the U.S. economy as it struggles to cope with the fallout from the coronavirus outbreak.
“As you know, the president has been very interested in infrastructure. This goes back to the campaign: The president very much wants to rebuild the country,” Mnuchin told CNBC’s David Faber. “And with interest rates low, that’s something that’s very important to him.”
“We’ve been discussing this for the last year with the Democrats and the Republicans. I’ve had ongoing conversations with Richard Neal on this. And we’ll continue to have those conversations,” he added.
The secretary’s comments to CNBC came after President Donald Trump on Tuesday called for the U.S. to spend another $2 trillion on a massive infrastructure package. In a tweet, the president wrote that “this is the time” to craft an infrastructure overhaul with U.S. interest rates at zero during the crisis.
“It should be VERY BIG & BOLD, Two Trillion Dollars, and be focused solely on jobs and rebuilding the once great infrastructure of our Country! Phase 4,” the president said, referencing the three pieces of emergency legislation lawmakers have already passed to help American workers dealing with the consequences of the COVID-19 contagion.
Any such infrastructure bill would follow an unprecedented, $2 trillion relief package Congress passed last month. That legislation, signed into law by the president on Friday, includes one-time payments to individuals, strengthened unemployment insurance and additional health-care funding in an effort to blunt the toll the virus is taking on U.S. economic growth.
But Trump has long been a fan of revamping American roads, bridges and airports, declaring throughout his 2016 campaign that he’d make infrastructure reform a priority during his time in office.
“The only one to fix the infrastructure of our country is me – roads, airports, bridges,” Trump tweeted on May 12, 2015. “I know how to build, [politicians] only know how to talk!”
Up until now, efforts to pass a major infrastructure overhaul haven’t seen success.
Talks broke down in 2019 between the president and Democratic leaders as they ramped up their investigation into Trump’s presidency. But COVID-19 has since whacked the U.S. economy, sparked a spike in unemployment claims and overwhelmed hospitals and health-care equipment.
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have both signaled in recent weeks that they’d be open to rekindling conversations about infrastructure. Fiscally conservative Senate Republicans, who may balk at the idea of even more mammoth spending, may be more likely to object to the president’s plan.
— CNBC’s Jacob Pramuk contributed reporting.
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