Infrastructure brings together Trump, Democratic leaders

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump convened Democratic leaders at the White House to talk infrastructure Tuesday but the administration is already signaling resistance to raising the gas tax to pay for sweeping plans to upgrade roads, bridges and other projects.

Ahead of the meeting, the White House said Trump is the “guy who lowers taxes,” appearing to rule out hiking the federal gasoline tax to pay for infrastructure repairs.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and congressional Democrats asked to meet with Trump to discuss launching an ambitious building project that’s a top priority for the party and has been a possible rare area of bipartisan accord with Republicans. Trump, too, has long promised a big infrastructure plan.

But one big issue is how to pay for the repairs. The nation’s top business groups and labor unions support increasing the federal tax, currently 18.3 cents a gallon. It was last raised in 1993.

Asked whether Trump supports raising the gas tax, White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said: “This president is the guy who lowers taxes.”

Conway acknowledged that “there’s no question” that infrastructure repairs need to be paid for.

The last time Trump sat down with Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, the president walked out in a huff and dismissed their government shutdown talks as a “total waste of time.”

Nearly four months later, the leaders came together again Tuesday — with an entourage of other Democratic leaders — in search of a plan to fix the country’s crumbling infrastructure. Trump, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, adviser Ivanka Trump and a half-dozen other administration officials met with the 12 Democrats in the Cabinet Room.

Infrastructure is seen as the one issue with the best chance for the two sides to work together this Congress — and even that isn’t given good odds for a fruitful ending.

More than one “infrastructure week” already has come and gone over the past two years with nothing to show for it. Still, advocates for an infrastructure package boost see a narrow window for action.

“I think a deal can be had if everybody is willing to put their battle axes away for a period,” said former Republican Rep. Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania, who served as chairman of the House’s transportation committee for six years.

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