WH threatens veto of funding bill over NY-NJ rail project

WH threatens veto of funding bill over NY-NJ rail project
© Getty Images

The Trump administration has threatened to veto a massive government funding package if it includes money for a rail and tunnel project in the Northeast, sources told The Hill.

The White House has made clear that is doesn’t support the multibillion-dollar Gateway Project, which has been a top priority for New York and New Jersey-area lawmakers like Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDemocrats press Trump, GOP for funding for mail-in ballots Schumer doubles down in call for Trump to name coronavirus supply czar Trump lashes out at Schumer over call for supply czar MORE (D-N.Y.) and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney FrelinghuysenRodney Procter FrelinghuysenRepublican lobbying firms riding high despite uncertainty of 2020 race Ex-Rep. Frelinghuysen joins law and lobby firm The 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority MORE (R-N.J.). 

“The administration has been very clear that we don’t think this is an efficient use of taxpayer dollars,” a senior administration official said in a statement. “Any official position on the legislation would be issued through a Statement of Administration Policy.” 

ADVERTISEMENT

The potential veto was first reported by Politico on Thursday, though sources have cautioned to The Hill that the White House’s move may be more of a pressure tactic.

Lawmakers are in the process of wrapping up work on a massive, trillion-dollar omnibus spending package, which the House may vote on as soon as next week.

Transportation Secretary Elaine ChaoElaine Lan ChaoOvernight Energy: Trump rolls back Obama-era fuel efficiency standards | Controversial Keystone XL construction to proceed | Pressure mounts to close national parks amid pandemic Critics blast Trump mileage rollback, citing environment and health concerns Trump administration rolls back Obama-era fuel efficiency standards MORE on Tuesday confirmed a separate report from The Washington Post that Trump had been pressing Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanWho should be the Democratic vice presidential candidate? The Pelosi administration It's not populism that's killing America's democracy MORE (R-Wis.) to withhold $950 million in federal funding for the project.

“The president is concerned about the viability of this project and the fact that New York and New Jersey have no skin in the game,” Chao told the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

The Department of Transportation later clarified that the administration opposes funding the project in the upcoming omnibus, but does not have an issue with the project itself.

ADVERTISEMENT

Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynGOP senator: National shelter-in-place order would be an 'overreaction' Lawmakers already planning more coronavirus stimulus after T package Cuban says he'd spank daughter if she was partying during coronavirus pandemic MORE (R-Texas) said Thursday he had not heard of a potential veto threat over the project, but that lawmakers can’t include a provision if there is opposition.

“The omnibus is going to be negotiated by leaders on both sides and the president,” said Cornyn. “So they’re not going to be able to stick something in there if somebody objects to it." 

But some lawmakers have suggested that it’s too late in the process to make such significant changes now.

“At this stage, reopening that bill would, I think, blow everything up. Blow everything up," Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee on transportation, told reporters Tuesday.

The Trump administration has backed away from the federal government’s involvement in the project, which would rebuild passenger rail connections under the Hudson River between New York City and Newark, N.J., and withdrew from the program’s board last summer.  

And in a December letter, the Federal Transit Administration denied the presence of an agreement that says the federal government would split the cost of the project with New Jersey and New York.