Schumer: Gateway project is a go despite Trump's objection

Schumer: Gateway project is a go despite Trump's objection
© Greg Nash

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTrump, GOP regain edge in Kavanaugh battle READ: President Trump’s exclusive interview with Hill.TV The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump slams Sessions in exclusive Hill.TV interview | Kavanaugh accuser wants FBI investigation MORE (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday that a multibillion-dollar rail project in the New York metro region is a go, despite the Trump administration’s opposition to funding the program in an upcoming omnibus spending bill. 

“The good news is we have bipartisan support for getting it done,” Schumer told reporters as Democrats unveiled their own infrastructure plan. “And from everything I hear, it’s all-systems-move-ahead despite what the president had to say.”

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New York and New Jersey lawmakers for the past week have pressed Transportation Secretary Elaine ChaoElaine Lan ChaoThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh confirmation in sudden turmoil Kathy Griffin offers her guesses on anti-Trump op-ed author A fuel-economy change that protect freedom and saves lives MORE for answers on the Gateway Program, which aims to rebuild passenger rail connections under the Hudson River between the two states.

Chao engaged in heated exchanges with several lawmakers from the two states on Tuesday in front of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, arguing the states should put up more money for Gateway. In one of those interactions, Chao appeared to confirm a report in The Washington Post that said President TrumpDonald John TrumpGrassley: Dems 'withheld information' on new Kavanaugh allegation Health advocates decry funding transfer over migrant children Groups plan mass walkout in support of Kavanaugh accuser MORE pressed Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanDems see Kavanaugh saga as playing to their advantage How does the 25th Amendment work? Sinema, Fitzpatrick call for long-term extension of Violence Against Women Act MORE (R-Wis.) to block $950 million in funding for the project. 

But a senior Department of Transportation official later clarified to reporters that the administration opposes funding the project in the upcoming spending bill, describing the money as an earmark, but is not trying to kill the program altogether. Congress banned earmarks in 2011.

“The dispute, if you will, or the conversation as it currently stands, is about how to fund, not about whether the states that care so substantially about these should be able to go ahead with them,” that official said.

But House lawmakers are nearing the end of writing the omnibus spending bill, which could get a vote as soon as next week.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, pushed back against describing the Gateway project funding as an earmark, telling reporters Tuesday that the money is "authorized” and has bipartisan support.

He also indicated that it's too late to strip the project's funding from the legislation.

“At this stage, reopening that bill would, I think, blow everything up," Diaz-Balart said of the omnibus.