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GOP chairman: Trump infrastructure bill could be ready ‘closer to the summer’

GOP chairman: Trump infrastructure bill could be ready ‘closer to the summer’
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House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill ShusterWilliam (Bill) Franklin ShusterHouse and Senate negotiators reach agreement on water infrastructure bill Congress, states and cities are not doing enough today to fix our infrastructure It’s high time for a discussion on infrastructure MORE (R-Pa.) said Thursday that an infrastructure bill could be ready "closer to the summer" as he begins the bill-writing process following President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump renews attacks against Tester over VA nominee on eve of Montana rally Trump submits 2017 federal income tax returns Corker: Trump administration 'clamped down' on Saudi intel, canceled briefing MORE's infrastructure overhaul rollout. 

Peter DeFazioPeter Anthony DeFazioTrump makes new overtures to Democrats Dems eye ambitious agenda if House flips House lawmakers introduce bill to end US support in Yemen civil war MORE and I are working on a bill together. And based on our conversations at the White House yesterday, I think there’s going to be an opportunity,” Shuster told The Hill, referring to committee's ranking member.

“But there’s challenges on our side. There’s going to be challenges on the other side, so we’ll work through the process.” 

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Shuster said Wednesday that he would begin working with DeFazio on legislation after the two attended a bipartisan meeting at the White House to discuss Trump’s recently unveiled infrastructure framework.

The White House on Monday officially released a 55-page proposal for Trump's infrastructure overhaul. The plan puts forth a framework for lawmakers to craft legislation for a $1.5 trillion infrastructure package that would focus on public-private partnerships and funding from state and local governments.

Shuster has repeatedly said that any infrastructure bill must have bipartisan support and that all options are on the table for crafting legislation. He has also referenced the gas tax, noting it has not been raised in 25 years.

Shuster after the meeting this week said Trump is still “open” to increasing the tax, while Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperOvernight Energy: Trump administration doubles down on climate skepticism | Suspended EPA health official hits back | Military bases could host coal, gas exports Trump poised to sign bipartisan water infrastructure bill Overnight Health Care — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Senators face Wednesday vote on Trump health plans rule | Trump officials plan downtime for ObamaCare website | Lawmakers push for action on reducing maternal deaths MORE (D-Del.) said the president supported a 25-cent hike during the discussion.

“It is a user fee,” Shuster said Thursday of the gas tax. “It’s not deficit spending. Today, we’re deficit spending on this stuff.”

Revenue from the 18.4-cent tax goes into the Highway Trust Fund to pay for road projects. But that levy has not been raised in 25 years, eroding the fund’s purchasing power over time.

“It’s going to take presidential leadership,” Shuster said of any effort to move forward with a tax hike. He added that Speaker Ryan (R-Wis.) “is not warm and fuzzy,” about a tax hike option.

Industry groups have pushed for an increase to the tax to boost the Highway Trust Fund, which is heading for another shortfall at the end of 2020, but that move remains unpopular among Republicans.   

Shuster, who is retiring at the end of his current term, said Wednesday that lawmakers would likely have until July to get some sort of infrastructure effort done, but added that there is no set timeline for authoring a bill. 

“We can get something done in fairly short order I believe,” he said. 

Melanie Zanona contributed reporting.