House, Senate appear split on infrastructure as top priority

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Republican leaders in the House and Senate appear to disagree on whether an infrastructure package will be an immediate priority for the next Congress.

{mosads}Rebuilding the nation’s crumbling roads and bridges is an issue President-elect Donald Trump vowed to pursue during his first 100 days in office.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Monday that he supports fixing the nation’s infrastructure and believes it could be a top priority for the lower chamber, though he emphasized that any plans would need to be fully paid for.

McCarthy backed Trump during the GOP primaries and signed up to serve as a delegate during the Republican National Convention.

“Infrastructure in America is lagging far behind. I think this is going to be a priority, and I think it will be a bipartisan issue,” McCarthy said during a pen-and-pad briefing Monday with reporters. “When it comes to infrastructure, we don’t want to have to wait two decades to see something built.”

But across the Capitol, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has adopted a different tone. The Kentucky Republican seemed to throw cold water on Trump’s infrastructure proposal last week, saying it would not be a top priority, according to NPR.

Conservatives are eager to tackle red-meat issues such as dismantling ObamaCare in the first 100 days of the new administration. McConnell said repealing the 2010 healthcare law is a “pretty high item on our agenda,” as is comprehensive tax reform and achieving border security, the NPR report said.

On the surface, infrastructure spending appears to have broad, bipartisan support in Congress. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) signaled last week that Democrats would be willing to work with Trump on an infrastructure package.

“We can work together to quickly pass a robust infrastructure jobs bill,” Pelosi said in a statement after Trump’s victory.

But Pelosi, who witnessed Republican efforts to block a major infrastructure and jobs bill from President Obama, likely recognizes that the Republican appetite for a massive infrastructure plan may not be as strong as Trump’s.

For one thing, Congress just tackled a five-year highway bill last December that designated $305 billion for highways, transit and other transportation projects. The legislation was paid for through a series of budgetary gimmicks, underscoring the challenge of coming up with long-term funding solutions in Congress.

In September, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) — who had a rocky relationship with Trump during the presidential campaign — cast doubt on whether there was hope for major infrastructure legislation in the near future.

“We passed the biggest highway bill, the long-term highway bill, for the first time since the 1990s just a few months ago,” Ryan told the Economic Club of New York in September. “So that’s already in place, and 10 percent above baseline spending on mass transit and highways.”

Trump’s plan could also face pushback from fiscal hawks in the Republican Party who have long been skeptical about spending federal dollars on transportation. The 2016 GOP platform calls for eliminating federal funding for mass transit, bike-share programs, sidewalks and rail-to-rail projects.

Conservative groups opposed to massive federal spending are already pressuring Trump to steer clear of an infrastructure plan that would add to the deficit or look like an economic stimulus package.

“Conservatives do not view infrastructure spending as an economic stimulus,” Dan Holler, Heritage Action for America’s vice president of communications and government relations, said in a statement last week. “It would be a mistake to prioritize big-government endeavors over important issues like repealing ObamaCare, reforming our regulatory system and expanding domestic energy production.”

Trump has long identified infrastructure investment as a 100-day priority, calling it a “golden opportunity” to create jobs and boost the economy.

The real estate mogul’s blueprint calls for $1 trillion of infrastructure investment over a decade, according to an outline posted on Trump’s campaign website. The plan, which Trump claims would be revenue-neutral, hinges on offering tax credits to private investors and leveraging revenues from public-private partnerships.

“We are going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals,” Trump said during his acceptance speech after winning the White House. “We are going to rebuild our infrastructure, which will become, by the way, second to none, and we will put millions of our people to work as we rebuild it.”

— Scott Wong contributed to this report.

— This story was updated at 2:40 p.m.

Tags Donald Trump Mitch McConnell Paul Ryan
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