A former Obama advisor gives 3 reasons why Trump is unlikely to clinch an infrastructure deal

Key Points
  • President Donald Trump is widely expected to address infrastructure when he delivers his State of the Union address.
  • He'll have "three pretty tough bars to get over" to strike a deal, says former Obama advisor Gene Sperling.
Democrats and Republicans are on different planets when it comes to infrastructure, says Heritage Foundation economist

President Donald Trump may want an infrastructure deal, but he is facing three big challenges to getting one actually done, according to Gene Sperling, a former economic advisor to Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.

Trump is widely expected to address the issue when he takes to the podium Tuesday night to deliver his State of the Union address.

But getting a buy-in from Democrats, who hold a majority in the House, is probably going to be tough, Sperling told CNBC. In fact, Trump has "three pretty tough bars to get over" in order to strike a bipartisan infrastructure deal, he said on "Closing Bell" on Tuesday ahead of the speech.

1. Trust

"People don't like making a deal with him. Even Republicans have gotten burned on DACA, on the shutdown appropriations. So there is very little trust," said Sperling, who served as director of the National Economic Council under both Obama and Clinton. 

Trump has caused some consternation within his own party over the recent government shutdown and his stance to phase out DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — which deferred deportation for immigrants who were brought into the U.S. illegally as children. The decision on the matter is still being held up in court. Trump recently offered to extend DACA's legal protections for three years in exchange for border wall money and to end the government shutdown. The shutdown ultimately ended after a record-long 35 days.

2. Design

When it comes to what should actually be in the plan, there is a wide gap between the two parties.

"Democrats are going to want real spending, not loans, public-private partnerships and they're going to want, as [Senate Minority Leader] Chuck Schumer has said, a green infrastructure component that deals with climate change," Sperling said.

In a Washington Post op-ed in December, Schumer, wrote that "any infrastructure bill would have to include policies and funding that help transition our country to a clean-energy economy and mitigate the risks the United States already faces from climate change."

Stephen Moore, distinguished visiting fellow at The Heritage Foundation and co-author of "Trumponomics: Inside the America First Plan to Revive Our Economy," agrees there is a wide divergence.

The GOP wants more roads and bridges, better ports and energy infrastructure, said Moore, a conservative economist who advised the Trump campaign in 2016. Democrats, meanwhile, want more green energy programs and mass transit.

"When Republicans talk about infrastructure and Democrats talk about infrastructure ... it's like Republicans are on Mars and Democrats are on Venus," Moore told "Closing Bell." "There is an issue of whether they are actually talking about the same thing."

3. Money

Democrats are going to want a plan that is more deficit neutral, especially after Trump's tax cut added to the deficit, Sperling said. That will lead to disputes about whether the president is willing to pull back some of his recent tax cut to help foot the bill, he added.

However, Moore insisted that will never happen.

"I guarantee you there is not going to be a big tax increase or a pull back on the tax cut because we believe the tax cut has been a phenomenal success," he said.

Moore said he believes the policy is responsible, in part, for the "incredible economy" and the "biggest construction boom going on in American history."