Senators unveil infrastructure investment bill

Senators unveil infrastructure investment bill
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A bipartisan group of senators is moving ahead with their own infrastructure spending bill as Congress awaits details from the White House about President Trump’s rebuilding proposal.

Sens. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSenate panel moves forward with bill to roll back Dodd-Frank Comey back in the spotlight after Flynn makes a deal Warner: Every week another shoe drops in Russia investigation MORE (D-Va.) and Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntDems push for more money for opioid fight Trump asked Senate Republicans to end Russia election interference investigation: report An overlooked solution to the opioid epidemic MORE (R-Mo.) are spearheading the new legislative effort, which would leverage money from the private sector through a newly created investment bank to help upgrade U.S. roads, bridges and other public works.

"We must think boldly and make real investments in our nation’s infrastructure rather than kick the can down the road with short-term fixes,” Warner said. “This legislation will set a clear framework that will help create jobs, expand U.S. commerce and trade, and keep American businesses competitive.”

The so-called Bridge Act would use $10 billion worth of federal dollars to spur about $300 billion worth of total project investment, lawmakers said.

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The measure would create an independent financing authority to provide loans and other forms of financial assistant to help states fund road, bridge, rail, port, water, sewer and other infrastructure projects.

While the bank would get initial seed funding from the government, it would become self-sustaining over time, bill sponsors said.

“Improving our roads, bridges, and waterways is critical for economic growth in our state and across the nation,” Blunt said.

The administration has said that Trump will unveil a broad sketch of his own $1 trillion infrastructure proposal in late May, but a detailed proposal won’t emerge until later this summer.

That plan is also expected to rely heavily on private financing, and some of Trump’s advisers have said they are exploring the idea of setting up a national infrastructure bank.

The idea of using an infrastructure bank has long been championed by Democrats, but has drawn the ire of some Republicans, who worry the bank would be controlled by Washington politicians and bureaucrats.

The measure from Blunt and Warner would ensure “unbiased project selection” by requiring projects to show “clear public benefit, meet economic, technical and environmental standards, and be backed by a dedicated revenue stream," lawmakers said. It also would require the selection process to be transparent and publicly accessible.