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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios
At last month's St. Patrick's Day lunch in the Capitol, President Trump told Richard Neal, the powerful Democratic chairman of the House's tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, that he wants to spend close to $2 trillion on infrastructure, according to two sources to whom Neal recounted his conversation.
Why this matters: Trump meets on Tuesday with Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi to discuss infrastructure. These meetings usually amount to nothing besides a media circus. But Democrats still take these meetings — in fact, Pelosi requested this one — because they know that, left to his own devices, Trump would happily spend a ton of federal money on infrastructure. (It's his own party that won't let him.)
Behind the scenes: Trump came into office imagining a presidency in which new projects — "built by the Trump administration" — would be erected all over the country, sources close to him tell me.
What's next? Nobody will come into the Tuesday meeting with an infrastructure plan, according to White House, administration and Democratic leadership sources who’ve discussed the meeting plans with me. And there are no plans to present even a top-line figure or a list of ways to offset new spending.
Meeting in the Oval Office, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images
Trump wings it at his "Chuck 'n Nancy" meetings. But Schumer and Pelosi spend a lot of time choreographing these meetings, according to sources familiar with their planning. They list off things they won't budge on and game out how to respond to Trump’s inevitable curve balls (such as calling in the TV cameras to watch them spar).
Here's what Democrats will demand in Tuesday's infrastructure discussion, per a source familiar:
Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios
Vice President Joe Biden's 2020 announcement sounded like he was ready to skip the primary. He dove right in, directly attacking his hoped-for competitor: President Donald Trump. Axios' Alayna Treene reached out to every Democratic presidential campaign over the past few days to preview their general election strategy.
What we're hearing: Some Democratic operatives told Alayna they worry about Trump dominating this election cycle the way he did in 2016 — something that could easily happen with Biden making Trump's character the focus of his campaign.
President Trump and first lady Melania Trump welcome Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife Akie Abe to the White House, April 26. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images
President Trump says he thinks he could strike a bilateral trade deal with Japan by the time he visits Tokyo in May. (Trump made this prediction during a Friday meeting at the White House with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.)
Reality check: Multiple sources close to the U.S.-Japanese trade talks tell me this is ridiculous spin. Trump's big demand — that the Japanese drop their massive tariffs on U.S. agricultural products — isn't going to happen anytime soon. They say the two sides haven't even agreed on the scope of these trade talks, let alone crafted serious plans for the timing of a possible deal.
Between the lines: Abe has no political wiggle room to give Trump what he wants on agriculture without getting significant U.S. concessions in return. Japan's farming lobby is far more powerful than America's — it’s virtually untouchable.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
The Trump administration is about to formally give up on a part of the Affordable Care Act that had largely died on its own.
Driving the news: The Office of Personnel Management intends to stop administering the ACA’s multi-state insurance plans. Axios’ Sam Baker reviewed a draft of the notification letter OPM is planning to send to congressional leaders.
How it works: The ACA initially envisioned creating 2 multi-state plans — private insurance policies that would be available through the ACA’s insurance exchanges in every state. The goal was to provide guaranteed competition in states that lacked it.
Between the lines: An administration official framed the death of the multi-state plans as a bad omen for “Medicare for All,” arguing that it was “a pilot program for the public option, and it’s been a dismal failure with even the most liberal states balking on it.”
The bottom line: “I've always sort of felt like it was well-intentioned but not reflective of the right reality of what's limiting competition," Georgetown University health policy professor Sabrina Corlette told Axios back in 2017.
Photo: Glowimages/Getty Images
The House has the Climate Action Now Act as its main legislation this week, per a senior Democratic aide. The House Rules Committee will have a "Medicare for All" hearing on Tuesday.
The Senate will speed through the following nominees under the new rule of only two hours of debate time, per a GOP leadership aide:
"The Senate will also process the president’s veto message on the Yemen resolution by the end of the week," per the aide.
President Trump's schedule, per a White House official: