President Trump and congressional Democrats announced that they reached the outlines of a potentially historic deal on Tuesday, and it could ultimately have a dramatic effect on millions of U.S. businesses--and the entire economy. 

Yes, we're talking about President Trump along with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer -- sworn political opponents, if not flat-out enemies. And yet, they reportedly came to an agreement to spend $2 trillion on infrastructure projects in the United States.

It's all the more remarkable, since Speaker Pelosi is being asked almost every day whether she thinks the House of Representatives should hold impeachment hearings. 

In fact, this might turn out to be the only time that Trump, Pelosi and Schumer will ever emphatically agree on anything.

And yet, they did, apparently. Trump told Pelosi during their marathon meeting at the White House, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, "I like the number you've been using, Nancy: $2 trillion." 

That's a truly massive amount of money. To put it in context -- $2 trillion -- Trump's entire annual federal budget for 2018 was just over $4 trillion. 

Granted, the infrastructure spending would take place over more than one year, and it's not all federal money. 

In fact, one of the big sticking points still is just how much the federal government would kick in, versus state and local governments or even private partners.

And, this next detail would seem bizarre in any other era:

  • Last year, the Trump administration called for an infrastructure plan that would have forced cities and states to pitch in 80 percent of the cost.
  • But on Tuesday, Trump not only walked back that idea according to the Journal, but he called it, "so stupid," even though it was reportedly what his own administration was pushing just a few months ago.

Regardless, if this were to finally go through, it would be game-changing.

There's no doubt that U.S. infrastructure -- we're talking about things like bridges, dams, roads, airports, train stations, broadband in rural areas, tunnels, etc. -- is in dire need of repair.   

Every few years the American Society of Civil Engineers grades the country's overall infrastructure. In the last two assessments, 2013 and 2017, the United States got a D+ both times.

And, that's dangerous for the long term health of millions of businesses that provide tens of millions of jobs.

As an example, there's a dire need for the multi-billion dollar Gateway Project here in New York, which would add a tunnel under the Hudson River to New Jersey, and repair another 100-year-old tunnel that was damaged during Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

Perhaps readers in Texas or Montana don't want to pay for projects like this that they'll never use. Granted as someone who lives in metro New York, I'm more aware of it.

But if the flow of people and goods in and out of the world's financial center were impeded by one of the current tunnels being closed, it would be catastrophic. And that's not even counting the fact that the New York City area's GDP is roughly 8 percent of the entire country's -- more than #2 Los Angeles and #3 Chicago combined. 

Anyway, it's a big deal -- but there is a big sticking point on the whole thing.

Trump only invited congressional Democrats to the negotiations according to reports, not Republicans. Republicans control the Senate, and a spokesperson for the leadership reportedly pronounced the whole thing "dead on arrival."

Perhaps that's just posturing. Certainly you wouldn't expect this whole thing to go smoothly, or for the final number to actually be $2 trillion. When Washington works, it runs on compromise.

As we note above, Trump and the Democrats don't seem to agree on how to pay for it anyway. They have another meeting set for next month on that not-so-minor detail.

But even just taking a step closer to each other on Tuesday -- one that almost nobody expected beforehand -- is cause for celebration. 

Published on: May 1, 2019
Like this column? Sign up to subscribe to email alerts and you'll never miss a post.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.