WH threatens veto of funding bill over NY-NJ rail project

WH threatens veto of funding bill over NY-NJ rail project
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The Trump administration has threatened to veto a massive government funding package if it includes money for a rail and tunnel project in the Northeast, sources told The Hill.

The White House has made clear that is doesn’t support the multibillion-dollar Gateway Project, which has been a top priority for New York and New Jersey-area lawmakers like Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerMontana's environmental lobby teams with governor to kill 600 jobs Dems allow separation of parents, children to continue, just to score political points Democrats' education agenda would jeopardize state-level success MORE (D-N.Y.) and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney FrelinghuysenRodney Procter FrelinghuysenOvernight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — Dems see midterm advantage in new ObamaCare fight Lawmakers ask for increase in suicide prevention funding Overnight Defense: Trump defends summit results | GOP chairman tries to clarify canceled war games | House panel advances 4.6B defense bill | Saudis begin Yemen offensive MORE (R-N.J.). 

“The administration has been very clear that we don’t think this is an efficient use of taxpayer dollars,” a senior administration official said in a statement. “Any official position on the legislation would be issued through a Statement of Administration Policy.” 

The potential veto was first reported by Politico on Thursday, though sources have cautioned to The Hill that the White House’s move may be more of a pressure tactic.

Lawmakers are in the process of wrapping up work on a massive, trillion-dollar omnibus spending package, which the House may vote on as soon as next week.

Transportation Secretary Elaine ChaoElaine Lan ChaoMitch McConnell — the Republican Senate's invaluable engine The lifesaving difference between connected cars vs. self-driving cars Transportation secretary defends brother-in-law’s nomination to lead pension agency MORE on Tuesday confirmed a separate report from The Washington Post that Trump had been pressing Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanPolitical figures pay tribute to Charles Krauthammer House approves five-year farm bill House postpones vote on compromise immigration bill MORE (R-Wis.) to withhold $950 million in federal funding for the project.

“The president is concerned about the viability of this project and the fact that New York and New Jersey have no skin in the game,” Chao told the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

The Department of Transportation later clarified that the administration opposes funding the project in the upcoming omnibus, but does not have an issue with the project itself.

Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynSenate moving ahead with border bill, despite Trump GOP senators introduce bill to prevent family separations at border Senate GOP tries to defuse Trump border crisis MORE (R-Texas) said Thursday he had not heard of a potential veto threat over the project, but that lawmakers can’t include a provision if there is opposition.

“The omnibus is going to be negotiated by leaders on both sides and the president,” said Cornyn. “So they’re not going to be able to stick something in there if somebody objects to it." 

But some lawmakers have suggested that it’s too late in the process to make such significant changes now.

“At this stage, reopening that bill would, I think, blow everything up. Blow everything up," Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee on transportation, told reporters Tuesday.

The Trump administration has backed away from the federal government’s involvement in the project, which would rebuild passenger rail connections under the Hudson River between New York City and Newark, N.J., and withdrew from the program’s board last summer.  

And in a December letter, the Federal Transit Administration denied the presence of an agreement that says the federal government would split the cost of the project with New Jersey and New York.