Trump light on details about infrastructure bill during Senate meeting

Trump light on details about infrastructure bill during Senate meeting
© Camille Fine

President Trump reiterated his desire to pass an infrastructure bill during a closed-door lunch with GOP senators on Tuesday, but was light on details about how or when he wants to get a rebuilding package over the finish line, according to lawmakers.

Sen. 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.), who was sitting at the president's table during the meeting, told The Hill that the topic of infrastructure came up with Trump over lunch. The Senate Republican caucus met with the president for more than an hour to discuss tax reform during their weekly policy meeting.

Sen. James 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.) said Trump also emphasized to senators how important an infrastructure package is for the country.

"It comes right after taxation, and he's excited about it," Inhofe told The Hill.

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Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.) told reporters that Trump talked in “generalities” about his priorities, including an infrastructure package. But Kennedy said Trump did not indicate whether he wants infrastructure funding tied to tax reform.

Repatriation — or taxing corporate earnings stored overseas when they return to the U.S. at a one-time, lower rate — was considered a potential funding tool for the stalled rebuilding plan.

Trump floated the idea of linking tax reform and infrastructure together just last week during a meeting at the White House with members of the Senate Finance Committee.

“We did not get into those specifics,” said Kennedy, who supports using repatriation to pay for tax reform.

The president also did not indicate a timeline for when he wants Congress to pass an infrastructure proposal, according to Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Overnight Health Care: 3.6M signed up for ObamaCare in first month | Ryan pledges 'entitlement reform' next year | Dems push for more money to fight opioids Dems push for more money for opioid fight MORE (S.D.), the Senate’s No. 3 Republican.

Thune, who also chairs the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, told reporters that it’s clear that tax reform will need to come before infrastructure.

"He recognizes, and we do too, there are a lot of things we are trying to get done before we get to infrastructure," Thune said.

"I know it’s a priority for him. It's on their radar screen. But right now, there’s kind of an immediate to-do list. Tax reform, of course, is front and center.”

White House officials reassured Republicans on the Commerce Committee during a meeting last week that an infrastructure bill was coming.

The rebuilding package was initially billed as a 100-day priority for Trump, but it has taken a back seat to other issues like taxes and health care.

The administration vowed to release more details about the infrastructure plan in late summer or early fall, but has yet to offer any further guidance.