Good morning, friends. It’s Infrastructure Week in the White House, open season on the president’s Twitter feed, and time for us to savor the blessed, fleeting moments between the death throes of “covfefe” and the emergence of the next Internet-consuming political meme.
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Today, let’s talk about infrastructure.
What’s at stake
One of the very few bipartisan issues in the country, is all. America’s roads and bridges and highways and airports are badly in need of upgrades — and funding those upgrades means funding jobs. The $1 trillion infrastructure investment plan President Trump touted last year was a hallmark of his campaign, and the White House is rolling out some of the that plan this week.
But details are still scant, and the early word on the plan is that it involves much less cash than usual from the feds, leaving the rest up to state, local and private funding sources, the New York Times reported last week. And the Los Angeles Times says the president’s proposed budget would cut transportation spending and grants that pay for infrastructure next year.
The local angle
As goes the nation’s infrastructure, so goes Philly’s. Twenty percent of the bridges in Philadelphia and its four surrounding counties are rated structurally deficient. Some of SEPTA’s railways are 100 years old. Last year, transportation officials in the Delaware Valley told my colleague Jason Laughlin that Pennsylvania needed $92 billion for road and transit improvements — and had less than half the money to fund them. (New Jersey had funding covered for about 78 percent of the road and transit projects on its wish list.)
In Philly, the streets department gets about half of its capital program funding from the feds, and officials say bridge and road replacement, mass transit support and economic development programs are high on their infrastructure wish list. Mayor Kenney’s spokeswoman, Lauren Hitt, told me the city wasn’t pleased with the plan — officials here think private spending on infrastructure won’t be enough, and that the plan needs more federal funding.
But an enormous infrastructure investment package could mean more jobs for the region. And that’s why the city’s powerful building trades unions — though they swing blue –have been more willing than others to play ball with Trump since his election. “As is always the case, the devil is in the details, so the Building Trades is taking a cautiously optimistic approach,” John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty, the head of the Philadelphia Building and Construction Trades Council, said in a statement. But he added the unions planned to lobby Congress in favor of the plan.
As POLITICO noted this week, there’s a lot of blockbuster legislation sitting around in Congress: the healthcare bill hasn’t passed the Senate, the president’s tax plan hasn’t even been drafted, and Congress still has to hash out a budget — and whether that will dovetail with Trump’s own budget outline is anyone’s guess. So the pressure, once again, is on.
What they’re saying
“At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is “no reason to be alarmed!”— President Trump on Twitter, in the aftermath of a terrorist attack in London Saturday night.
“YOU TAKE HIS NAME OUT OF YOUR MOUTH, DONALD” — Marie Le Conte, a Buzzfeed writer based in London, echoing a good chunk of British Twitter‘s feelings on Trump’s rhetoric.
“[The mayor] has more important things to do than respond to Donald Trump’s ill-informed tweet that deliberately takes out of context his remarks urging Londoners not to be alarmed when they saw more police — including armed officers — on the streets.” — a spokesperson for London Mayor Sadiq Khan on the Trump tweet. Politifact rated the president’s tweet false, but Trump repeated the claim Monday.
In other news…
- Tweeting about the London attacks over the weekend and into Monday, the president repeatedly called for instituting his travel ban on several Muslim-majority countries — which was blocked in federal court, revised, resubmitted, and blocked again. But the president’s complaints that the revised version is too “politically correct,” and even his use of the word “ban” may backfire: It contradicts his own aides, and lawyers already have used his personal statements against the ban in court. Even Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway’s husband said on Twitter Monday that Trump was weakening his legal case.
- The anti-homelessness charity Project HOME is opening 88 affordable housing units in North Philly this fall. By dawn on the day applications opened, 500 people had lined up for a chance at one. I wrote about a few of the people waiting in line, and about advocates’ fears that Trump’s deep proposed cuts to the Department of Housing and Urban Development might jeopardize future projects.
- South Jersey Republican Rep. Tom MacArthur staked his political career on a controversial amendment to the GOP healthcare bill — and got it through the House. Now, President Trump, noted loyalty valuer, is hosting a fundraiser for him. (My colleague Don Sapatkin has a good explainer on what the healthcare bill might mean for the region.)
What I’m reading
- The Intercept’s explosive report on a Russian attack on a voting software supplier before the election — and the fallout after the feds arrested the woman who allegedly leaked the top-secret report on the hacking attempt.
- My colleague Michael Matza on an undocumented immigrant who hasn’t left the Arch Street Methodist Church since November — for fear that he’ll be arrested and deported.
- My colleague Will Bunch on Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accords — and why it didn’t quite make sense for the president to evoke Pittsburgh as he did so.
- A chilling New York Times story about the skyrocketing death toll of the opioid epidemic. And this AP story about Trump voters who feel betrayed by the president’s proposed cuts to addiction services. And this heartbreaking column by my colleague Mike Newall on the heroin crisis at a Kensington library.
A non-political palate cleanser
I am obsessed with this delightful New York Times article about the stray cats who live in the Times’ foreign bureaus and the reporters who love them.