Lawmakers say Trump’s infrastructure vision lacks political momentum

Lawmakers say Trump’s infrastructure vision lacks political momentum
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Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle said Tuesday that there is little political momentum in Congress for the significant infrastructure investment President TrumpDonald John TrumpPapadopoulos on AG's new powers: 'Trump is now on the offense' Pelosi uses Trump to her advantage Mike Pence delivers West Point commencement address MORE called for in his State of the Union address.

Trump declared “both parties should be able to unite for a great rebuilding of America’s crumbling infrastructure,” a remark that was met mostly with shrugs.

Senators said while there’s support for rebuilding roads, bridges and other infrastructure, there’s far from any consensus on how to pay for it when the Congressional Budget Office projects that the federal deficit will grow to $897 billion in 2019.

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“I think it’s obvious that a lot of our infrastructure is crumbling and needs repairs, but how do you fund it when you’re spending on other things as well?" said Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonFrustration boils over with Senate's 'legislative graveyard' Barr throws curveball into Senate GOP 'spying' probe Bipartisan group of senators introduce legislation designed to strengthen cybersecurity of voting systems MORE (R-Wis.). "If you’re ever going to borrow money for something it should be for a capital good, but when you’re borrowing so much money … it makes it pretty challenging.”

Rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure was a pillar of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, and one that he highlighted early in his term, saying Democrats and the White House could work together on the issue.

But optimism for a striking a grand deal is rapidly fading. 

Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinSenate Democrats to House: Tamp down the impeachment talk The Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Senate panel approves Interior nominee over objections from Democrats MORE (W.Va.), a centrist Democrat from a state Trump won overwhelmingly in 2016, said the president needs to offer a viable proposal to pay for an infrastructure package.

“I didn’t see the money. I’d love to. I think everyone wants to do one. Everyone knows we need one but I didn’t see no money. How is it funded? Funding is the problem there,” he said.

Sen. Doug Jones (Ala.), another Democratic centrist, called the lack of consensus on how to pay for infrastructure "a problem."

"The goal of an infrastructure [package] is as bipartisan as they come, but the problem that we got now is how to pay for it," he said, adding that the 2017 GOP tax law and growing deficits make it "kind of tough, especially when you're asking for more money for the military and all the nondefense funding."

He said "perhaps there's a way" to move smaller "strategic" projects through Congress.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyOn The Money: Conservative blocks disaster relief bill | Trade high on agenda as Trump heads to Japan | Boeing reportedly faces SEC probe over 737 Max | Study finds CEO pay rising twice as fast as worker pay Conservative blocks House passage of disaster relief bill The Hill's Morning Report — After contentious week, Trump heads for Japan MORE (R-Ala.) said it’s up to the House Ways and Means Committee to get the ball rolling, since revenue-raising measures are supposed to originate in the lower chamber.

“Infrastructure is money,” he said. “You’re talking about more money. When you talk about infrastructure, you’re talking about more gas tax, realistically."

Trump told lawmakers on Tuesday night that taking no action on infrastructure “is not an option.”

“I am eager to work with you on legislation to deliver new and important infrastructure investment, including investments in the cutting edge industries of the future,” he said. "This is a necessity.”

Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanHouse votes to boost retirement savings The Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget WANTED: A Republican with courage MORE (R-Ohio), a member of the Senate Finance Committee, said Congress could move a smaller-scale proposal such as a bipartisan bill to address the National Park Service maintenance backlog, a measure that the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee advanced during the previous Congress.

“It’s a $6 billion infrastructure bill. It’s not everything that people want, but I always thought it could be part of the broader infrastructure bill where you use tax incentives like the private activity bonds we retained in the tax bill to leverage federal dollars,” he said.

Portman said it would be funded by offshore oil and gas revenues, adding that he has talked with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump orders more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions What if 2020 election is disputed? Immigration bills move forward amid political upheaval MORE (R-Ky.) about putting the legislation on the floor schedule.