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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 TrumpJudge rules to not release Russia probe documents over Trump tweets Trump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo Obama to campaign for Biden in Florida MORE.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyMcCarthy faces pushback from anxious Republicans over interview comments McCarthy: 'I would think I already have the votes' to remain as House GOP leader Conservatives seize on New York Post story to push Section 230 reform MORE (R-Calif.) and House Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseMcCarthy faces pushback from anxious Republicans over interview comments Jordan vows to back McCarthy as leader even if House loses more GOP seats Cedric Richmond's next move: 'Sky's the limit' if Biden wins 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 PelosiTrump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo On The Money: Power players play chess match on COVID-19 aid | Pelosi bullish, Trump tempers optimism | Analysis: Nearly 1M have run out of jobless benefits Overnight Health Care: CDC expands definition of 'close contact' after COVID-19 report | GOP coronavirus bill blocked in Senate | OxyContin maker agrees to B settlement with Trump administration MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerTrump casts doubt on hopes for quick stimulus deal after aides expressed optimism Schumer says he had 'serious talk' with Feinstein, declines to comment on Judiciary role Democrats seem unlikely to move against Feinstein 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 CohnGary Cohn: 'I haven't made up my mind' on vote for president in November Kushner says 'Alice in Wonderland' describes Trump presidency: Woodward book Former national economic council director: I agree with 50 percent of House Democrats' HEROES Act 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.”