Trump infrastructure plan gets cold reception
President Trump’s proposal to revamp the nation’s roads and bridges landed with a thud on Monday, with Democrats chastising the $200 billion federal offer as too small to address the nation’s needs.
“This is not a real infrastructure plan — it is simply another scam, an attempt to sell our nation’s infrastructure and create windfall profit for Wall Street while rolling back environmental protections,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), the ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
He called the administration’s rebuilding proposal “embarrassingly small.”
Republican reactions were much more positive, with Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) saying Trump was right to make improving infrastructure a national priority.
But Ryan focused his remarks on provisions in Trump’s plan that would cut red tape for projects, and did not clearly endorse spending $200 billion to spur on private investments across the country.
“Real action to streamline the permitting process will help jumpstart projects that are vital to our communities and our economy,” he said in a statement, adding that the House has already passed infrastructure reforms and that “we look forward to working with the administration on this critical issue.”
Getting conservative Republicans on board with spending $200 billion on infrastructure will be a tough sell, and even more so after a budget deal that included $300 billion in new spending over the next two years. The combination of that bill and December’s tax-cut legislation is causing budget deficits to soar.
Trump’s proposal would inject $200 billion of federal seed money to create $1.5 trillion in total spending on infrastructure over 10 years. Half of the federal funds would go toward an incentive program to match financing from state and local governments investing in rebuilding projects.
Democrats argue this is simply not enough to rehabilitate U.S. infrastructure and that state and local governments can’t afford to fund the projects.
They also derided the plan’s reliance on tolls.
“This is the kind of plan you’d expect from a president who surrounds himself with bankers and financiers and wealthy people who don’t mind paying a $20 toll every time they go to work,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), standing next to a large sign that said “Trump tolls.”
“It’s a plan designed to reward rich developers, large banks and the president’s political allies, not to rebuild the country,” he said.
Democrats also blasted the administration for cutting other transportation funds in the new budget to reach the $200 billion number.
“[T]he Trump budget actually slashes billions of dollars from infrastructure investments that prevent deadly floods, connect rural communities and create good-paying jobs across the country,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who is pushing a plan to invest $1 trillion into infrastructure projects.
An infrastructure plan has been seen as a long shot in 2018, an election year in which there is little incentive for Democrats to work on legislation that could provide Trump with a victory. Trump decided against moving forward with an infrastructure plan at the beginning of his term, choosing instead to focus on the more divisive issue of ObamaCare repeal.
In addition, House conservatives have never been wild about the idea of adding to the deficit to pay for infrastructure improvements.
Nonetheless, some key Republicans remain hopeful that progress is possible.
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), who is retiring at the end of his current term, said the administration’s proposal creates “a golden opportunity” for bipartisanship on rebuilding.
“There is widespread desire to work together on this effort,” Shuster said following the plan’s unveiling. “Passage of an infrastructure bill will require presidential leadership and bipartisan congressional cooperation. I look forward to the constructive debate ahead of us on this critical issue.”
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), the ranking member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said Monday that he would work across the aisle on a rebuilding bill.
“We need to make real investments — not cuts — in Florida and communities around the country,” said Nelson, one of 10 Senate Democrats up for reelection in states carried by Trump in 2016.
“That’s why I plan to work with chairman Thune and my colleagues on the Senate Commerce Committee to try to come up with a bill that can garner broad support and include ideas from both parties,” he added, referring to Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.).
Thune, the No. 3 Republican in the Senate, said he looks forward to working with lawmakers in both parties on a future bill.
“Through this guidance and letting Congress have the opportunity to write bipartisan legislation, President Trump has offered us direction to meet infrastructure needs in our nation’s states, cities and rural communities,” he said.
Such comments were in the minority on Monday, however.
Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.), another member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, criticized the proposal for moving money around.
“It’s not new money. It is the repurposing of existing programs,” Garamendi told The Hill. “They’ve moved the money from existing programs to their new programs and say they got $200 billion over 10 years. No they don’t. It’s the same $200 billion that would be spent on ongoing programs.”