Hillary Clinton is touring the country touting one of her biggest promises of the campaign — and it’s centered around an issue that both she and Republican nominee Donald Trump are insisting they will spend heaps of money on.
It’s a jobs plan the Democratic nominee promises to have through Congress within the first 100 days of her presidency — and its primary focus is on infrastructure spending.
During almost all of her campaign appearances since the conclusion of the Democratic National Convention last month, Clinton has championed that 100-day proposal she wants voters to be able to hold her accountable for right from the onset of her presidency, should she be elected.
“We’re going to have the biggest infrastructure investment program since World War II,” she told a crowd at a rally in Colorado last week. “And if you look, our roads, our bridges, our tunnels, our ports, our airports, our water systems, they’re all in need. They all should be repaired.”
“So we’re going to make investments that will make America grow our economy, put people to work, and position us better to actually be competitive around the world,” she continued. “But there’s a lot of infrastructure that you can’t necessarily see that we want to work on.”
Clinton’s infrastructure plan calls for $275 billion in additional spending over a five-year period. It would also include the creation of a national infrastructure bank, where $25 billion of the total would go to support loans and loan guarantees that could add up to an additional $225 billion, making the total plan a potentially $500 billion federally-backed investment.
Jacob Leibenluft, a senior policy adviser for Clinton’s campaign, told Business Insider in an email that the former secretary of state believes the state of American infrastructure is both “a national emergency and a national opportunity.”
“As a share of the economy, federal infrastructure investment is roughly half of what it was thirty-five years ago — and this underinvestment is costing families and businesses across our country,” he wrote. “Investing in our infrastructure will not only create good-paying jobs today, but also unlock the potential of our economy to create the good-paying jobs of the future.”
The plan, according to her website, will be paid for by what her campaign said is business tax reform, which is another component of the 100-day jobs plan, in addition to investments in manufacturing and scientific research.
“People that think the US is in decline or are no longer in the lead are mostly wrong, but when it comes to infrastructure, they sort of have a point,” Jeffrey Frankel a professor in economic policy at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, told Business Insider. “When I go to other countries we used to think of as developing countries — have a standard of living below ours — the roads and airports and rail is so much better. These are investments we have to make anyway, and this is a good period to do it.”
“We really should have done this five years ago when unemployment was really high, and all those construction workers were out of work,” he continued. “I’m in favour of it regardless of what it takes to pay for it.”
And Clinton is not the only candidate who wants to allocate resources to it.
Just this week, as she was touring the nation speaking about her 100-day jobs plan, Trump told the Fox Business Network he’d want to spend at least double on infrastructure compared to what Clinton was proposing.
“We’re going to go out with a fund,” he said of how he’d be able to pay for $800 billion to $1 trillion on infrastructure, a total virtually equal to that proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont for infrastructure spending. “We’ll get a fund, make a phenomenal deal with low interest rates and rebuild our infrastructure.”
He added, “We’d do infrastructure bonds from the country, from the United States.”
But speaking to Business Insider at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last month, Rep. Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania, chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said Trump has not provided him with any specific plan for investing in America’s infrastructure.
“Not particular,” he said when asked following a breakfast for the Pennsylvania delegation in Cleveland, which he spoke at.
Shuster, a Trump supporter, added: “Again, Mr. Trump has been talking about transportation and infrastructure. A couple weeks ago he said he’s going to be the greatest infrastructure president in the nation’s history.”
Of course, Trump’s most well-known infrastructure plan is his proposed wall along the US/Mexico border that some estimate would cost north of $20 billion.
Richard Parker, a professor in public policy at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, told Business Insider that Trump’s decision to say he wants to at least double Clinton’s proposal makes the debate over how much Congress will pass regarding infrastructure spending much more “interesting.”
“Trump, in true Trump fashion, said I’m going to double whatever she proposed,” he said, joking that the Republican nominee is “absolutely rewarding on all fronts.”
“So he said he’d more than double it, but he hasn’t specified what it would be for or how he’d finance it either,” he continued. “House Republicans and most Senate Republicans, when they saw Hillary’s initial package, said, “Oh no, no, no, we’d never pass something like that. Budget busting.’ Now, their presidential nominee is saying that he’s going to come to the Congress, if elected, and he’s going to push through something that is $600 billion or more.”
He added that Trump’s willingness to publicly proclaim his want to double Clinton’s spending exposes the Republican Party on the subject on infrastructure spending, adding that it’s one area that is most likely to see bipartisan support since individual members of Congress will be able to see results in their home districts.
Late last year, a Republican-controlled Congress passed a $305 billion infrastructure bill that spread spending over five years — the largest in more than a decade.
“Ideology in the face of pork doesn’t stand up very strongly,” he said.
Both Frankel and Parker said it’s a phenomenal time to borrow money for such a project because of “exceptionally low interest rates.”
“You can’t get cheaper money than this for public sector projects,” Parker said.
Leibenluft wrote, Clinton “wants to be held accountable for that commitment,” one she’s preaching to voters will get through in the near immediacy of her presidency.
“Secretary Clinton has emphasised the importance she places on her jobs plan by making it clear it will be a priority of her first 100 days — and she wants to be held accountable for that commitment,” he said.
But could such a package pass within 100 days, as Clinton is promising? That likely depends on circumstances.
Both Frankel and Parker said it could depend on how much she would win the election by, and if Democrats are able to take back the Senate. Parker added that there’s “going to be a lot of hard bargaining.”
Even without that, Frankel said there’s a chance Republicans could be persuaded to support her package, particularly “if it looks like their party did terrible in the election.”
Clinton’s campaign has touted a number of Republicans who’ve recently come out in support of her campaign as proof that she will be able to reach a bipartisan deal on such items.
“It’s one of the very few areas, good areas, that one could imagine Democrats and Republicans coming together,” Frankel said. “But I’d hate to make a prediction.”
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