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Hopes for infrastructure deal with Trump rise if Dems win House

Democrats are vowing to fight tooth and nail to oppose President Trump’s agenda if they win back the House. But there is one area where they may try to work with the administration.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said an infrastructure and jobs package is a top priority for Democrats if they’re in the majority next year, and transportation is considered potential common ground between Trump and congressional Democrats.

Trump promised to rebuild the nation’s crumbling infrastructure during his 2016 presidential campaign, but efforts to craft comprehensive legislation hit roadblocks under the GOP-controlled Congress, where Republicans have long been skeptical of massive transportation spending. The latest proposal from Democrats carried a $1 trillion price tag.

Still, there is optimism in transportation circles that Trump will have better luck at getting a massive infrastructure package to land on his desk if Democrats control the House.

“Since Day One, I made it clear that I would be willing to work with President Trump and my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to deliver Americans with the infrastructure bill that we so desperately need,” said Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), co-chairwoman of the House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, in a statement to The Hill.

“Democrats are serious about getting the job done, and that's why we developed a $1 trillion infrastructure plan to rebuild our nation,” she added. “We stand ready to work with Republicans if they're serious about making a meaningful investment in our infrastructure.”

But it may prove to be a difficult political environment for bipartisanship if Democrats are simultaneously fighting the administration with subpoenas, investigations and possibly even impeachment proceedings next year.

The window for cooperation could also be limited to 2019, after which election-year politics could complicate any bipartisan infrastructure efforts as both sides gear up for the 2020 presidential election.

“If people think the politics is crazy now, just wait until the 50-plus Democrats announce they’re running for president,” said Sean Joyce, the CEO of Atlas Crossing and a former GOP aide for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “The Democrats list infrastructure as a top priority in 2019, and it sounds nice saying ‘we want to play ball,’ but suiting up and getting on the field are wildly different.”

House Democrats earlier this year introduced their “For the People” agenda, which includes proposals to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, lower prescription drug costs and clean up the corruption in Washington -- three issues Trump ran on in 2016.

While a Democratic aide said the presidential overlap was unintentional, it nevertheless leaves the door open for bipartisanship next year.

The Democrats’ infrastructure plan would inject $1 trillion in federal funding directly into a wide range of transportation projects: roads, highways, bridges, railroads, airports, broadband, energy and water. Lawmakers estimate the plan could create as many as 16 million jobs.

A Democratic leadership aide emphasized that the goal is to have a bipartisan product with some GOP buy-in, regardless of whether there is a tense relationship between congressional Democrats and the White House. But the ball is ultimately in Trump’s court on whether he’s willing to work with Democrats, the aide said.

“He is the president of the United States, so we need his signature,” the aide said. “But the onus is going to be on him... Does he want to fulfill a campaign promise?”

While Trump never introduced infrastructure legislation, his administration released a framework that would leverage about $200 billio