Infrastructure could move to the big leagues if Dems, GOP work together

Few professional sports teams lack a draft pick which didn’t work out. A heralded athlete who just never performed or lived up to expectations. Was oversold, underdeveloped and likely both. Someone who stumbled in the minors. Tore up a knee. A rotator cuff. Shredded an elbow. Couldn’t just pick up the pro game after a beastly performance in college. Maybe just had bad luck.

One of the more interesting misses is Chad Mottola.

The Cincinnati Reds expended their first-round pick of the 1992 draft on Mottola. Mottola was number five in the draft behind Phil Nevin, Paul Shuey, BJ Wallace and Jeffrey Hammonds. Nevin and Hammonds made all-star teams. Shuey played in the majors for 13 seasons. Wallace, drafted by the Montreal Expos, never made it to the show.

But who came before Cincinnati chose Mottola in 1992 is not nearly as intriguing as who followed Mottola. Mottola did play in the Big Leagues. Fifty-nine games with the Reds, the Blue Jays, the Orioles and the Marlins. Four home runs and a career batting average of .200, right at the Mendoza Line.

What’s fascinating is the player the Reds passed on to get Mottola.

Few people have heard of Chad Mottola. But everyone knows Derek Jeter.

The New York Yankees took Jeter with the sixth pick in the ’96 draft.

The rest is history.


We’ve heard about an “infrastructure bill” for years in Congress.

It’s been down in the minors. Big promise. Lots of upside. A “five-tool player.” But it’s never made it to the show. That’s why it’s so fascinating that President Trump and top congressional leaders may be game to move an infrastructure package soon. There’s hope it will serve as the bipartisan, political salve for the political divides.

The president talked about it before he took office. Democrats were hopeful the president would pivot to infrastructure. It never happened.

It wasn’t long until “infrastructure week” devolved into a bad joke on Capitol Hill.

Both sides were quickly mired in fights over various cabinet secretaries. A battle over two Supreme Court justices – culminating in the imbroglio over the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Three government shutdowns. Endless encounters over a border wall, DACA and immigration. Arguments over health care. Scrapes over the Russian investigation, the Mueller report, inquests about documents and general distrust.

Now nearly two dozen Democrats are vying to defeat the president next year.

So working together might seem impossible.

But, here’s what happening:

President Trump hosted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., at the White House this week to discuss a bipartisan infrastructure package. There is supposedly an accord to spend $2 trillion on fixing roads, bridges, highways and updating the nation’s transportation system – though few know how they’ll pay for it.

It’s notable that Schumer declared that there was “goodwill in this meeting and it was different than some of the other meetings, we’ve had – which is a very good thing.”

We’ll see how long this all lasts.

Remember, they have to deal later this summer with raising the debt ceiling and avoiding a fourth government shutdown in October. We haven’t even talked about Congress approving one of the Trump administration’s marquee items: a new trade pact with Canada and Mexico to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). And one wonders if any modicum of trust will erode as Democrats dig deeper into avenues revealed in the Mueller report.

Keep in mind that a bipartisan win looks good for Trump going into 2020. Pelosi knows that she needs to give freshman Democrats several big wins between now and the election. So the sides could be ready to deal – and it may all come down to timing.

The key to an infrastructure deal could hinge on noise-canceling headphones. The sides will have to ignore the din over the Mueller report -- which ordinarily would threaten to torpedo the infrastructure deal -- and actually bring a potential measure to completion.

The 2020 election could also work against the sides. It’s unclear how long everyone has before they retreat to their corners and let politics reign.

History is not on anyone’s side.

Congress really hasn’t addressed infrastructure in any form since the 2009 economic stimulus bill. Democrats passed the measure in an effort to right the economy after the 2008 financial crisis. Republicans opposed the package. They argued the plan spent too much and that many programs in the bill weren’t truly targeted toward infrastructure.

Infrastructure seems like it should be bipartisan. But it’s a far cry from that.

Democrats may attempt to push for environmental and labor interests in the pact. That could doom cooperation from many Republicans.


And no one really knows if they can trust Trump. Lawmakers of both parties are used hearing one thing from the president, another line from his staff, thinking they have an agreement in principle, and then watching it all melt away. Consider two separate experiences last year when it came to funding the government – as well as a 2017 episode when the president undercut GOP leaders in front of Pelosi and Schumer.

We haven’t even addressed a likely fight over the federal gas tax which is used to help pay for roadways, via the Highway Trust Fund. Motorists currently pay a tax of 18.4 cents per gallon. Lawmakers last raised the gas tax in 1993. Washington has never indexed the tax for inflation. Thus, people are paying mid-1990s tax rates for gasoline. Various proposals to amend, update or hike the gas tax in an effort to spur infrastructure development have failed.

Pelosi had an additional talk with Trump about an infrastructure bill after the Tuesday meeting.

“We’re going to be putting together what some of the acceptable pay-fors are to him,” said Pelosi.

Even a middling infrastructure bill would be a blow – since policymakers have pushed a major investment in infrastructure for so long.

If they can’t work this out, the infrastructure bill will likely linger longer in the minors. Bumpy road trips between Midland and Tulsa. Mobile and Chattanooga.

It might have a cup of coffee with the big club. But we’ve seen that before.

It was “infrastructure week” in Washington. But until Congress actually puts a measure on Trump's desk to sign, the bill is merely a prospect, toiling in AA or AAA.