News Analysis: Partisan rancor threatens U.S. infrastructure bill

Source: Xinhua| 2019-05-24 00:39:10|Editor: yan
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by Matthew Rusling

WASHINGTON, May 23 (Xinhua) -- Washington's bitter partisan divide is likely to continue, and will limit the power of the White House to push its agenda. That was evident this week when tensions between Democrats and the White House boiled over, threatening much-needed legislation on infrastructure.

Tensions between the White House and Democrats came to a head Wednesday after a meeting on infrastructure fell apart, calling into question whether the two sides will be able to pass a 2-trillion-U.S.-dollar infrastructure improvement package.

"I've always been skeptical about a big infrastructure bill and this makes me even more so," Christopher Galdieri, assistant professor at Saint Anselm College, New Hampshire, told Xinhua.

"I don't think there's any way to get to an agreement here, in part because Trump doesn't actually appear to care about the issue, the way Obama did about health care or Bush about terrorism or education," he said, referring to the previous two presidents.

"As a result, he's not motivated to compartmentalize the same way his predecessors did," Galdieri said of U.S. President Donald Trump.

Wednesday saw Trump walk out of a meeting with House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi. Fuming, Trump then called an impromptu press conference to blast Pelosi and Democrats, vowing not to work across the isle to pass much needed legislation until they halt their investigations against him.

Pelosi that day accused Trump of being "engaged in a cover up," that "could be an impeachable offense."

"We do believe it's important to follow the facts, we believe that no one is above the law, including the President of the United States," Pelosi said Wednesday.

Trump defended himself against Democrats' charges that he obstructed the Russia probe - a massive investigation into whether his campaign colluded with Russia to clinch the 2016 elections - which found no smoking gun. The president emphasized that he doesn't "do cover-ups," and lambasted Democrats for their talk of possible impeachment proceedings.

Investigations currently underway against Trump include the House Judiciary Committee's investigation into obstruction of justice; the House Financial Services and Intelligence committees' joint investigations into Trump's businesses; and the House Ways and Means Committee's fight to get its hands on Trump's tax returns.

The spat comes at a time when Washington is dogged by deep partisan divisions, with the two sides constantly attacking each other, and some experts doubt any infrastructure bill would get passed, given the cavernous gap between how each side wants to pay for it.

"I think the current impasse makes an infrastructure bill less likely, as even if there weren't the tension over investigations, there are still significant differences in how Democrats and Republicans want to pay for infrastructure measures," Dan Mahaffee, senior vice president and director of policy at the Center for the Study of Congress and the Presidency, told Xinhua.

"I also think that as we get closer to the election, there is less of an incentive to get a bipartisan deal done, as each side will want to run on what their own vision of an infrastructure solution would look like," Mahaffee said.

Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Darrell West told Xinhua that the current partisan divide will go through the 2020 election "and possibly beyond."

"It developed over several decades and really intensified under Trump," West said.

The divide between the two sides is deep, and reflects a deeper divergence in U.S. society that has been brewing for years, with portions of the Democrats leaning more left and many GOP constituents, particularly Trump's base, leaning more rightward.

"There are completely different views of many policies between Republicans and Democrats and neither side really trusts the other," West said.

While the two sides previously had agreed on the need for an infrastructure bill, they have yet to agree on a price tag.

West said it is "hard to see an expensive infrastructure bill moving through Congress, as Republicans will object to the high price."