GOP chairman focused on moving infrastructure package this year

GOP chairman focused on moving infrastructure package this year
© Greg Nash

The head of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee reiterated Thursday his commitment to moving President Trump's infrastructure proposal through Congress this year despite growing concerns that work on the legislation may get pushed into 2018.

“The sooner the better. ... I’m looking at sometime maybe this summer, early fall,” Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) told Bloomberg TV on Thursday. “Hopefully we’ll get it done this year.”

Shuster acknowledged, however, that infrastructure will take a backseat as other top GOP priorities are addressed.

“We’ve got Obamacare up first, and then tax reform has to go forward to figure out where the dollars are going to come from,” Shuster said. “And then after that, infrastructure.”

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The comments come amid reports that Republican leadership and the White House are considering punting on infrastructure legislation until next year, which would give lawmakers more breathing room to work on their top issues during the packed legislative year.

Trump made infrastructure investment one of the cornerstones of his campaign and initially promised to deliver a proposal to Congress within his first 100 days in office. But the debate over repealing and replacing ObamaCare is hogging the spotlight for now.  

During a joint address to Congress last month, he called on lawmakers to advance a $1 trillion package that will be funded through public and private financing.

Some conservatives have been reluctant to back massive federal spending on transportation, and Trump had to personally ask House Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanWant bipartisan health reform? Make the debate honest again Ex-CBO directors defend against GOP attacks on ObamaCare analysis Ryan: CBO's healthcare estimate is 'bogus' MORE (R-Wis.) to add an infrastructure bill to the Republican agenda.

The White House has begun to hold meetings on the issue and has directed a team to start crafting a plan, though a timeline and further details on the proposal have yet to take shape.

Shuster has assured that funding for the package won’t all come in the form of direct federal dollars. He said the administration is eyeing things like public-private partnerships, tax reform and toll ways.

“It’s not all going to come from the government,” Shuster said. “There are other places to find those dollars to coble together a $1 trillion.”