President Donald Trump shifted gears from planned economic remarks to comment on just about everything else during Thursday’s speech in Ohio, hammering home the White House’s accomplishments over the past year and pushing aside his pitch to sell the administration’s polarizing infrastructure plan.
In front of a crowd of local workers in Richfield, Ohio, Trump quickly went off script, running through a list of benefits his administration has provided for the American worker. Early on he mentioned key admin flagpoles such as the elimination of “job-killing” regulations, the passage of massive tax cuts, the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, and the nominations of 145 district judges.
And soon after — in true campaign rally form — he took sharp aim at Democrats, implying that the party was nonplussed at illegal drug smuggling across the border.
“The Democrats don’t like that the economy is so strong. They want to raise your taxes and want people to come and from the border, and they want — I can’t imagine they want… but drugs are flowing across borders,” Trump said.
The president pivoted from topic to topic stopping briefly to mention the recent trillion dollar spending omnibus, a rising stock market, upcoming legislation to treat the opioid crisis, and Obamacare. At each turn, his message was clear: Trump was the president of the American worker.
“I used to say you are going to have a friend, but now I have proven you have got a friend in the White House,” he said.
Trump added that Democrats abandoned much of middle and “rural” America; in contrast, his administration will prioritize the region through a billion or so dollar infrastructure plan.
The unfurling of the White House’s $1.5 billion framework to rebuild the nation’s ailing roads and bridges has hit a few speedbumps in the past months. Officials have lauded the plan as the next massive legislative agenda from the White House yet Capitol Hill remains to be convinced.
Democrats have been critical of a framework that puts a significant chunk of the funding responsibilities on state and local governments.
“They’ve gone from a trillion dollars to $200 billion that would be done with [public-private partnerships], and then Trump doesn’t like [public-private partnerships], so it’s $200 billion that [White House aide D.J. Gribbin] said last week would be cut from other domestic spending,” Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ohio), ranking member of the House Transportation Committee told Politico.
“I think we’re lost in the wilderness,” he added.
Even Trump’s confidence in the typically bipartisan nature of infrastructure is waning. Back in December, Trump marked his plan as “a perfect place to start” for across the aisle legislation. He changed his tune during Thursday’s speech.
“I do not think you are going to get Democrats supports very much and you’ll probably have to wait till after the election, which is not so long down the road,” Trump said.
Still, the administration will continue to push a four-pillared infrastructure deal down the road no matter the opposition.
As it stands, the agenda will:
- Look to spur massive job growth, with a predicted 400,000 new jobs.
- Rejigger the permit approval process.
- Invest in rural America with expanded broadband internet access.
- Highlight public/private partnership with an incentive program.
Some experts believe that there is room for innovation within the current framework and could challenge workers and corporations to think creatively about project funding. Self-automating cars, privatized rest stop, and advanced water distributing are just some ideas floated by the transportation sector.
Trump concluded the speech with a call to action for Congress to pass what he characterized as “common sense” legislation; though many speculate that both chambers are unlikely to pass any major laws until after the 2018 midterm elections.
“Congress now has the opportunity to build on this momentum and to act on a commonsense plan that will make our economy stronger, our roads faster, and our families safer,” the president said.