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

WH threatens veto of funding bill over NY-NJ rail project
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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 SchumerChuck SchumerPew poll: 50 percent approve of Democrats in Congress Former state Rep. Vernon Jones launches challenge to Kemp in Georgia Schumer lays groundwork for future filibuster reform MORE (D-N.Y.) and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney FrelinghuysenRodney Procter FrelinghuysenBottom line Republican lobbying firms riding high despite uncertainty of 2020 race Ex-Rep. Frelinghuysen joins law and lobby firm 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.” 

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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 ChaoThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - US vaccine effort takes hit with Johnson & Johnson pause Gingrich on Trump-McConnell feud: GOP 'better off' focusing on Democrats Trump rips McConnell in speech to Republicans MORE on Tuesday confirmed a separate report from The Washington Post that Trump had been pressing Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanOn The Money: Senate confirms Gensler to lead SEC | Senate GOP to face off over earmarks next week | Top Republican on House tax panel to retire Trump faces test of power with early endorsements Lobbying world 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.

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Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynIntelligence leaders push for mandatory breach notification law Senate GOP signal they won't filibuster debate of hate crimes bill Application portal for venue grants down for five days with no updates 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.