GOP rep spoke 'extensively' with Trump about Gateway rail project

GOP rep spoke 'extensively' with Trump about Gateway rail project
© Greg Nash

New York Rep. Pete KingPeter (Pete) KingOn The Money: 3 million more Americans file for unemployment benefits | Sanders calls for Senate to 'improve' House Democrats' coronavirus bill | Less than 40 percent of small businesses have received emergency coronavirus loans GOP Rep. Pete King to buck party, vote for Democrats' coronavirus relief bill Bipartisan lawmakers call for Postal Service relief MORE (R) said he spoke “extensively” with President TrumpDonald John TrumpDonald Trump and Joe Biden create different narratives for the election The hollowing out of the CDC Poll: Biden widens lead over Trump to 10 points MORE about the New York metro region’s multibillion-dollar Gateway rail project during Thursday’s St. Patrick’s Day lunch.

“I told him the importance of Gateway,” King told The Hill of the discussion with the president, which he said lasted about five minutes.

King hesitated to provide additional details of his conversation with Trump, which comes after a group of New York and New Jersey lawmakers met with Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanTwitter joins Democrats to boost mail-in voting — here's why Lobbying world John Ratcliffe is the right choice for director of national intelligence — and for America MORE (R-Wis.) on Wednesday to emphasize the project’s significance

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When pressed about Transportation Secretary Elaine ChaoElaine Lan ChaoTrump campaign launches Asian Pacific Americans coalition Bottom line Democrats to probe Trump's replacement of top Transportation Dept. watchdog MORE’s opposition to an Obama-era funding arrangement for the project, King said he didn’t “want to say anything today that could undercut [things].”

The New York lawmaker said it would not be “productive” to speak more of his discussion with Trump over the rail project, which is aimed at rebuilding passenger rail connection under the Hudson River between New York and New Jersey. 

The program has been a sticking point in ongoing conversations about the impending omnibus spending bill lawmakers must pass ahead of a March 23 deadline.

The White House last week threatened to veto the omnibus if it includes $900 million in funding for the project, while the Department of Transportation has said it opposes financing Gateway in the spending bill.

“All I can say right now is that I’m not going to say anything more,” King said when asked if he thinks Trump’s opposition to the funding is a form of political retribution for lawmakers who voted against last year’s GOP tax cuts and attempt to repeal ObamaCare. “If you had called me yesterday, I would have said that’s a possibility.”

The congressman’s silence on his lunch conversation comes after King told Politico on Wednesday that the Speaker described Trump’s resistance to funding Gateway during the meeting with lawmakers from the New York and New Jersey delegation. 

King also said Thursday that he won’t vote for the omnibus if the Gateway dollars are stripped.