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Senate May Move Alone on Infrastructure

Monday, August 7, 2017

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New reports indicate that a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators may attempt to pass their own infrastructure bill this fall if none materializes from the White House, where the matter has seemingly stalled.

According to The Hill, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said that “Congress is just going to have to grab the rope” if President Donald J. Trump and his administration don’t offer up a detailed infrastructure package soon. “There’s already been discussions among us, both Republicans and Democrats, about coming together” on the topic.

Infrastructure Discussion

Soon after last year’s election, the Trump administration signaled that it would be making a $1 trillion infrastructure plan a priority. Before Trump’s inauguration, though, members of Congress predicted that the bill would come together in the “second 100 days” of the administration, after a funding system was worked out.

President Trump with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao
The White House

President Trump (seen with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, right) may be open to spending more than the $200 billion he announced he would allocate for infrastructure over the next decade.

In late May, the White House released a budget proposal that included a plan for $200 billion in infrastructure spending, but the schematic was short on details. It calls for $5 billion in the 2018 budget, with increases in future years totaling $200 billion after 10 years.

In order to reach the touted $1 trillion figure, the plan relies on private funding that the administration says will be leveraged using the government expenditures.

While the White House has said it is committed to working with Congress on infrastructure, Republicans are expected to make tax reform a priority when the legislature convenes again after its summer recess. Infrastructure is not expected to be a top concern until a tax plan is worked out.

The New York Times reported in July that the administration’s stalled infrastructure efforts may change shape as time progresses. Trump and advisor Gary D. Cohn are open to increasing the government funding for the program over the $200 billion mark, the newspaper reported. At that time, a White House spokesperson told the paper its plan was still to have an infrastructure package ironed out in late summer or early fall.

Road construction
WSDOT, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, via Flickr

Some are predicting that an infrastructure package won't come together until after Congress and the president settle on a tax reform plan.

But not everyone agrees. According to The Hill, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., chairman of the Transportation Committee, said that infrastructure “more than likely, in my view, spills into next year based on how long it’s going to take to do tax reform.”

That could be a problem for some legislators, whose patience is wearing thin on an issue that’s generally seen as a bipartisan winner.

“I think our best bet right now is to work across the aisle in the Senate, regardless of what the White House does,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., told The Hill. “This is going on now. People want to move.”

Advisory Council Stops and Starts

Trump signed an executive order on July 19 to establish a Presidential Advisory Council on Infrastructure, under the umbrella of the Department of Commerce. The Council was created to “study the scope and effectiveness of, and make findings and recommendations to the President regarding, Federal Government funding, support and delivery of infrastructure projects in several sectors, including surface transportation, aviation, ports and waterways, water resources, renewable energy generation, electricity transmission, broadband, pipelines and other such sectors as determined by the Council.”

Trump had previously said he would put two real estate developers, Richard LeFrak and Steven Roth, in charge of the council.

In late July, after the executive order, a nonprofit called Food & Water Watch sued the administration over the council, alleging that it was convened without proper public notice, and had been meeting and operating before the executive order that officially created it was issued.

   

Tagged categories: Funding; Government; Infrastructure; NA; North America; President Trump; Program/Project Management

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