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 TrumpTrump conversation with foreign leader part of complaint that led to standoff between intel chief, Congress: report Pelosi: Lewandowski should have been held in contempt 'right then and there' Trump to withdraw FEMA chief nominee: report MORE.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyBudowsky: Donald, Boris, Bibi — The right in retreat Hoyer calls on GOP leader to denounce 'despicable' ad attacking Ocasio-Cortez The Hill's Morning Report - Trump eyes narrowly focused response to Iran attacks MORE (R-Calif.) and House Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseScalise blasts Democratic legislation on gun reforms Liz Cheney calls for 'proportional military response' against Iran On The Money: Senate panel scraps vote on key spending bill amid standoff | Democrats threaten to vote against defense bill over wall funding | Trump set to meet with aides about reducing capital gains taxes 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 PelosiPelosi: Lewandowski should have been held in contempt 'right then and there' Democrats bicker over strategy on impeachment Overnight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Pelosi set to unveil drug price plan | Abortion rate in US hits lowest level since Roe v. Wade | Dems threaten to subpoena Juul MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer, Pelosi push Trump to back universal background check bill Sinema says she would back Kennedy in race against Markey Democrats threaten to withhold defense votes over wall 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 says US will hit China with new round of tariffs next month Gary Cohn bemoans 'dramatic impact' of Trump tariffs Press: Acosta, latest to walk the plank 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.”