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Infrastructure Gets The Attention Of Trump, Schumer And Pelosi


Bridges, roads, infrastructure - most of the time, we don't pay attention to any of it until it starts to fall apart, of course - which has been happening for decades. And now in a divided Washington, this could be the issue that brings people together.


CHUCK SCHUMER: This is a major effort to tackle our nation's most critical infrastructure needs.

BERNIE SANDERS: When we rebuild our infrastructure, we rebuild the middle class.

SARAH SANDERS: I think this is a great place where Democrats and Republicans can come together. They can find some common ground.

GREENE: The voices there, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, Democratic presidential nominee Bernie Sanders and White House press secretary Sarah Sanders.

Now, Schumer along with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are at the White House as we speak for a meeting with President Trump about infrastructure. NPR's Ayesha Rascoe is at the White House, as well, reporting on this. Hi, Ayesha.


GREENE: So what's happening? Are the two sides coming together as we speak?

RASCOE: I don't know if they're coming together, but they're in the same place. We know that the meeting is...

GREENE: That's a start.

RASCOE: (Laughter) That's a start.

The meeting is going on right now. Some of the other participants in this meeting include Ivanka Trump, who is the president's daughter and adviser; Larry Kudlow, the White House economic adviser. That is - that's some of the people from the White House side. The Democrats also brought Congressmen James Clyburn, Steny Hoyer and others to kind of represent their side.

So right now, they're talking. Right now, they're not allowing cameras in or the press in. The last time they let in the press, you know, things got very contentious. And it was...


RASCOE: ...Kind of, like, almost a shouting match. So maybe that's why they're not doing that. Anything is possible, though. They may bring the president in later. But right now they're not letting the press in.

GREENE: Yeah, the last time President Trump met with Chuck and Nancy, as he referred to them, I mean, it brought about the longest government shutdown in the nation's history. Right? I mean, is - does it look like this is going to turn out better?

RASCOE: There are reasons to maybe doubt that. The other times when they've met, things haven't gone so well. There was the time, obviously, we just talked about with the shouting match kind of. And then there was the time where President Trump walked out on a meeting...

GREENE: Right.

RASCOE: ...With Democrats. And so there are real questions about how far this can go. But there's been this idea that infrastructure is an area where there could be some bipartisan compromise. And so if there is room for a deal, it might be in this area.

GREENE: Well, one of the sticking points, one of the issues that's been so difficult to come together on - it's been, you know, the subject of some of these meetings - has been immigration. There's movement on that issue, not compromise. In a memorandum last night, the Trump administration called for changes that would make the asylum process a lot more difficult for people trying to come to the United States. Right?

RASCOE: Yeah. So what the president asked is the - he wants the attorney general and the secretary of Homeland Security to propose new regulations within 90 days that would speed up the adjudication of asylum claims, it would charge application fees for those seeking asylum and work permits, and it would immediately revoke employment authorization for those who are denied asylum. So these are regulations that would need to be kind of crafted and proposed. Then you would have kind of time to comment before you would likely have a final regulation. So this isn't happening immediately, but this is something that the White House wants to happen. And whenever there is a final regulations on this, it will almost certainly be challenged in court.

GREENE: And have we heard from Democrats on this proposal yet?

RASCOE: Well, I mean, we know that there will be intense opposition. There has been intense opposition for many of these things that President Trump has been trying on immigration - and just concerns about the way that people who are seeking asylum are being treated. And that's what the Democrats have been concerned about.

GREENE: All right. NPR White House reporter Ayesha Rascoe talking to us at the White House, where Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats are meeting with President Trump and other folks from the White House as we speak.

Ayesha, thanks as always.

RASCOE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.