Incoming Dem chair: Infrastructure deal wouldn’t just be win for Trump

Victoria Sarno Jordan

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), who is expected to be chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee next year, said Wednesday that Democrats are willing to work with President Trump on an infrastructure package, even if a deal on transportation would give the GOP president a win.

At an event hosted by The Atlantic, DeFazio said that Democrats will “have plenty of other places to campaign against the president.”

“Infrastructure is to the benefit of all the people in the United States of America, Democrat, Republican, independent,” he added.

{mosads}DeFazio also said that if infrastructure legislation is enacted, Trump wouldn’t be able to take complete credit because Congress didn’t act on infrastructure when Republicans controlled both of its chambers.

“He can take some credit but he sure as heck can’t take total credit because they controlled everything and they did nothing,” he said. 

DeFazio reiterated his goal for the House to pass an infrastructure bill in the first six months of next year. He said he hopes the Senate “can act a little more expeditiously than usual.” 

Republicans and Democrats have broadly agreed on the need for more infrastructure investments, but the challenge is figuring out how to pay for new spending. DeFazio touted his bill to index gas and diesel taxes to inflation, saying he plans to refine it and propose it to the White House. But he also said that it will be up to the House Ways and Means Committee to figure out how to offset the cost of new transportation spending.

DeFazio said that he needs Trump’s help “because we’re going to have to do some revenues and we’re going to need him to show people that it’s okay to do a little bit of revenues.”

Previous proposals from the Trump administration have focused on public-private partnerships for infrastructure, but DeFazio has said that he thinks the White House is now open to a significant increase in federal funding.

DeFazio said that public-private partnerships are a tool that can be used in some cases but that there is only a small percentage of projects that lend themselves to be financed that way. Similarly, he said that he thinks an infrastructure bank would also be a “minor tool” that only lends itself well to certain types of projects.

DeFazio’s home state of Oregon has been piloting a tax on vehicle miles traveled (VMT) — an idea that has gained interest as cars are becoming more fuel-efficient. DeFazio said that it’s likely that the country will move to VMT taxes in the future but that the shift doesn’t need to happen yet because most vehicles still rely on gas and diesel. He said that he plans to propose a national pilot of a VMT tax in which people can opt-in to participate.

Tags Donald Trump Peter DeFazio

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