White House to ramp up infrastructure effort in coming days

White House to ramp up infrastructure effort in coming days
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The White House will kick its major infrastructure initiative into high gear next week with a string of high-profile events aimed at ramping up support for one of President Trump’s chief campaign promises.

The administration had been under increasing pressure to show progress on the $1 trillion rebuilding package, which Trump broadly outlined in his budget proposal last week.

While work on the infrastructure proposal has been underway for months, next week will mark the administration's most public effort yet to sell stakeholders, lawmakers and the public on Trump’s plan.

Still, the full legislative package likely won’t be unveiled until later this summer. In the meantime, the White House will start to flesh out more details about the proposal over the next week.

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“We’ve had some achievements to date … but we’re really formally launching the things we’re doing,” said Gary Cohn, Trump's National Economic Council director, during a press call on Friday. “Next week we’re going to announce a few very interesting things.”

The week will kick off with Trump signing a list of formal “legislative principles” in the oval office related to air traffic control reform, which will be sent to Congress.

Trump will then deliver remarks in the White House Rose Garden about his vision for separating air traffic control from the federal government – an idea that has been billed as a way to speed up modernization efforts, but one that has run into a buzz saw of opposition on Capitol Hill.

While Trump already endorsed the spin-off proposal in his budget request, the signing of principles will serve as the clearest signal to date about how serious the president is about putting some muscle behind the long-stalled effort.

Officials also said the principles are expected to be far more specific than what was included in the budget blueprint, though they declined to offer further details.

Although the White House plans to move air traffic control reform separately from the $1 trillion infrastructure package, officials said it’s up to Congress how to tackle both initiatives.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao will testify next week in front of two congressional panels on the issue, as lawmakers begin work on reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

A similar spin-off plan was included in last year’s FAA bill, but stalled amid opposition from GOP appropriators and tax-writers.

Cohn said the plan will have “enormous benefits for all citizens” because it will improve function, maintain safety, protect rural and general aviation interests, and cut down on delays.

Trump will make two public speeches on other infrastructure priorities next week: one on inland waterways in Ohio on Wednesday and another on roads and rails at the Department of Transportation in D.C. on Friday.

The package, which will use $200 billion to leverage $1 trillion worth of overall investment through private sector involvement, is expected to address a wide range of transportation projects, including veterans hospitals, energy and broadband.

It will also include “massive permit reform,” with the goal of getting the approval process down to two years or less, Cohn said.

On Thursday, the White House will also host a listening session with governors and mayors from all around the country in an effort to exchange ideas about how best to partner on infrastructure improvements.

“The purpose of this event is to ensure the administration’s policies are aligned with the actual owners and operators of a bunch of the infrastructure… and to let them hear what we’re thinking, but most importantly, to hear what they’re doing,” Cohn said.