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 TrumpFeinstein, Iranian foreign minister had dinner amid tensions: report The Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Harris readies a Phase 2 as she seeks to rejuvenate campaign MORE.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes No agreement on budget caps in sight ahead of Memorial Day recess Republican strategist says an Amash presidential bid wouldn't result in 'any real political gain' MORE (R-Calif.) and House Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseAmash storm hits Capitol Hill Trump hits Amash after congressman doubles down on impeachment talk Trump encouraged Scalise to run for governor in Louisiana: report 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 Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Threat of impeachment takes oxygen out of 2019 agenda Trump denies 'tantrum' in meeting with Pelosi: 'It is all such a lie!' MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerNo agreement on budget caps in sight ahead of Memorial Day recess Ex-White House photographer roasts Trump: 'This is what a cover up looked like' under Obama Pelosi: Trump 'is engaged in a cover-up' 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 CohnTrump officials slow-walk president's order to cut off Central American aid: report John Kelly had to break up argument between US trade officials: report The Hill's Morning Report — Dem ire at Barr intensifies 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.”