Trump officials assure Republicans an infrastructure plan is coming

Trump officials assure Republicans an infrastructure plan is coming
© Greg Nash

The White House reassured Senate Republicans that President Trump remains committed to rebuilding U.S. roads, bridges, airports and other public works, according to lawmakers who attended a meeting with administration officials on Wednesday.

“I thought it was a very positive conversation. A lot of clear ideas emerging, a lot of clear commitment to the passage of an infrastructure bill,” Sen. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerDems look to use Moore against GOP McConnell: 'No change of heart' on Roy Moore US trade deficit rises on record imports from China MORE (R-Colo.) told The Hill.

But key details about the long-awaited infrastructure proposal — and an estimated timetable for its release and consideration in Congress — remain up in the air.

"We didn’t spend a lot of time on funding," Sen. Jim InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeGOP senator on backing Moore: ‘It’s a numbers game’ Overnight Energy: Panel advances controversial Trump nominee | Ex-coal boss Blankenship to run for Senate | Dem commissioner joins energy regulator Senate panel advances controversial environmental nominee MORE (R-Okla.) told The Hill.

ADVERTISEMENT

There was “no sense of timing,” Gardner said. 

Republicans on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee sat down with four officials from the White House to discuss the stalled rebuilding initiative on Wednesday. Policy adviser D.J. Gribbin and Reed Cordish from the Office of American Innovation were both in attendance.

Wednesday’s meeting, which took place on Capitol Hill, offered an opportunity for the administration to update lawmakers about the infrastructure package. Senators also expressed their priorities for a bill, lawmakers said.

“It was full attendance,” Gardner said. “It shows people are serious about getting this done.”

The meeting comes as lawmakers have been clamoring for more details about Trump’s infrastructure proposal, which was once billed as a 100-day priority but has been stuck on the sidelines as Congress works on health care and tax reform.

"It was good, and it was overdue," Inhofe said of the meeting. "We need to be talking about this. We have a lot of moving parts, both the Senate and House, and two committees."

The White House outlined a brief sketch of Trump’s infrastructure vision in the administration's budget request earlier this year, vowing to release more details in the third quarter or early fall. But the administration has yet to release any further guidance on the plan.

And Trump continues to question the role of public-private partnerships in the plan, raising concerns about how the proposal will be paid for and whether Republicans will be on board with the rebuilding effort.

“He did say he’s no longer excited about public-private partnerships,” Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillDemocrats turn on Al Franken Trump rips Dems a day ahead of key White House meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (D-Mo.) told reporters Wednesday following a meeting at the White House with Trump to talk about taxes.

Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownThe Hill's 12:30 Report Avalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign Overnight Regulation: Feds push to clarify regs on bump stocks | Interior wants Trump to shrink two more monuments | Navajo Nation sues over monument rollback | FCC won't delay net neutrality vote | Senate panel approves bill easing Dodd-Frank rules MORE (D-Ohio) said he asked the president how the administration plans to pay for the infrastructure package if it doesn’t include public-private partnerships.

“He said, ‘The tax bill will have lots of money, maybe we’ll combine them,’” Sherrod told reporters.

Sen. Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerSenator predicts Congress will wrap up tax work in two weeks The Hill's Whip List: Where Republicans stand on Senate tax bill US warship collides with Japanese tug boat MORE (R-Miss.), who described Wednesday’s meeting as positive, said he hopes to see infrastructure legislation “as soon as possible,” but acknowledged that could mean “early next year.”

Inhofe said lawmakers have not yet "gotten to the point where we’re actually working on language," but added "we’ll start releasing things as soon as we get taxes behind us."

Gardner, however, said he walked away from the discussion feeling more reassured about Trump’s rebuilding push.

“I had worried that it might be something that gets kicked into next year, but maybe it is something we get done this year — or at least starting to work on it,” he said.

But stakeholders who were at the White House earlier this month for a briefing on infrastructure are feeling less optimistic.

Those present at the meeting said the administration appears no further along on their rebuilding effort, and there was no concrete timeline given for the proposal’s release.

“Very little, if anything, was revealed,” said one source in the room. “I was hoping this would be an opportunity to begin unveiling at least another layer, and there was none of that.”

--Naomi Jagoda contributed to their report, which was updated at 5:25 p.m.