Top Republicans break with Trump on public-private for infrastructure

Top Republicans break with Trump on public-private for infrastructure
© Greg Nash

Top House Republicans say they want public-private partnerships to stay on the table as an option for financing a sweeping infrastructure overhaul, despite criticisms from President TrumpDonald John TrumpCensus Bureau spends millions on ad campaign to mitigate fears on excluded citizenship question Bloomberg campaign: Primary is two-way race with Sanders Democratic senator meets with Iranian foreign minister MORE.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthySunday shows preview: 2020 Democrats jockey for top spot ahead of Nevada caucuses GOP climate plan faces pushback — from Republicans House GOP campaign arm mocks Democrats after stumbling upon internal info on races MORE (R-Calif.) and House Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseBottom line Pelosi's staff huddles with aides in both parties on 'surprise' medical billing Republicans sense momentum after impeachment win MORE (R-La.) both said Thursday that public-private partnerships could be a smart move to pay for any proposed infrastructure package.

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“We ought to look at every option to see if those kinds of partnerships help us build more roads and help meet the needs of communities,” Scalise told reporters on Thursday.

The lawmaker said that using private spending to fund public infrastructure projects has been successful in many instances, but emphasized that any final plan will have to have bipartisan support.

The comments come one day after Trump met with Democratic leaders to discuss infrastructure proposals.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiThe Hill's Morning Report - Sanders on the rise as Nevada debate looms Lawmakers push back at Trump's Pentagon funding grab for wall Malaysia says it will choose 5G partners based on own standards, not US recommendations MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerBarr to testify before House Judiciary panel Graham won't call Barr to testify over Roger Stone sentencing recommendation Roger Stone witness alleges Trump targeted prosecutors in 'vile smear job' MORE (D-N.Y.) announced they reached an agreement with Trump to spend $2 trillion on an infrastructure package. The trio is expected to meet again later this month to continue negotiations, including options for funding such a plan.

GOP lawmakers, concerned that Democrats will propose raising or implementing new taxes, argue that going with public-private partnerships could help them stretch federal spending for infrastructure projects.

But in the meeting, Trump reportedly referred to his administration’s previous infrastructure plan, which called for public-private partnerships, as “so stupid” and argued that he was never supportive of the model because “you get sued.”

He blamed the past plan on his former top economic adviser Gary CohnGary David CohnBannon says Trump now understands how to use presidential power: 'The pearl-clutchers better get used to it' Sunday shows - All eyes on Senate impeachment trial Gary Cohn says Trump's tariffs 'hurt the US' MORE.

His comments were also countered by McCarthy, who said at a press conference Thursday: “I think public-private has worked in a lot of places and I think that you should always use that element too.”

McCarthy praised the public-private model as a way to “leverage money further.”

Scalise also said Thursday that lawmakers should focus on isolating the “most pressing infrastructure needs that we can afford to meet” before throwing out a dollar amount, predicting the final cost will be “a lot lower than $2 trillion.”