GOP pans Democrats’ $1T infrastructure package

GOP pans Democrats’ $1T infrastructure package
© Haiyun Jiang

Washington Republicans rejected a $1 trillion infrastructure package on Tuesday put forth by Senate Democrats, who challenged President TrumpDonald John TrumpChelsea Clinton announces birth of third child Ukrainian officials and Giuliani are sharing back-channel campaign information: report Trump attacks 'the Squad' as 'racist group of troublemakers' MORE to work with them on his promise to rebuild U.S. roads, bridges and other public works.

“They’re trying to stake out their own ground on this, but in the end, any infrastructure plan, to get through Congress and signed into law, is going to have to be one that the president agrees with and that enjoys the support of a lot of Republicans,” Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneGOP rattled by Trump rally GOP wants commitment that Trump will sign budget deal Poll: McConnell is most unpopular senator MORE (R-S.D.), chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, told reporters.

“Whatever they come up with, we’d be happy to look at … but we don’t want to go down the path of another $1 trillion stimulus,” he added.

ADVERTISEMENT

In an opening bid to swing Trump to their side of the debate, Democrats unveiled a proposal on Tuesday that they say would invest $1 trillion in transportation projects over the next decade, creating 15 million jobs.

The blueprint includes a $200 billion “vital infrastructure fund” that would finance major projects such as rail lines and tunnels connecting New York City and New Jersey.

It also includes $210 billion to repair “crumbling” roads and bridges; $180 billion for rail and bus transit; $75 billion for school construction; $70 billion for port, waterway and airport improvement; and $100 billion for energy infrastructure.

One of Trump's most consistent vows on the campaign trail was to invest as much as $1 trillion in repairing the nation’s ailing infrastructure, but he left vague many of the details of what he had in mind.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTrump says he will meet with Schumer 'ASAP' after border visit Dem senator describes 'overcrowded quarters,' 'harsh odor' at border facilities Top Democrats demand security assessment of Trump properties MORE (N.Y.) told reporters Tuesday that the new president “seems open to a bill this large.”

But Trump infrastructure adviser Richard LeFrak said the price tag may end up being closer to $550 billion, predicting a “tug-of-war” with conservatives over the spending issue.

The idea of revitalizing the country’s infrastructure has long been championed by President Obama and congressional Democrats, but has repeatedly ran into a buzz saw of opposition from Republicans, primarily over the scope of federal spending and how the massive costs would be paid for.

“That is something that congressional Democrats have sought for years, but congressional Republicans have stymied us at every turn,” Schumer said.
 
“We’re challenging President Trump to support our plan. He campaigned on a promise of bigger and better infrastructure. This plan is the way to make it happen.”

Schumer and Democrats largely believe that spending on infrastructure should be borrowed, because it’s an investment in the economy that creates a return.

That idea is a non-starter among Republicans, however.

“If it’s not paid for, if it’s not fiscally responsible, it’s just not going to make it through this Congress,” Rep. Bill ShusterWilliam (Bill) Franklin ShusterEx-GOP Rep. Roskam joins lobbying firm Anti-corruption group hits Congress for ignoring K Street, Capitol Hill 'revolving door' Republicans spend more than million at Trump properties MORE (R-Pa.), chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, told Fox Business Network on Tuesday.

Trump is attempting to ease some of Republicans’ concerns by pushing their favored strategy to put private companies in charge of transportation projects instead of the federal government. A proposal he circulated on the campaign trail would offer $137 billion in federal tax credits to private investors that back transportation projects.

But any financial incentives for the private sector would still have to be fully paid for in order to gain Republican support, and conservatives may still be reluctant to back any plan that looks like “pork barrel” spending or mirrors Obama’s economic stimulus package.

“I don’t think we ought to borrow almost a trillion dollars and plus up a bunch of federal accounts,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report — Mueller Time: Dems, GOP ready questions for high-stakes testimony Election security to take back seat at Mueller hearing McConnell challenger faces tougher path after rocky launch MORE (R-Ky.) told reporters Tuesday.