GOP Moves Quickly to Give Input to Infrastructure Bill–4GH.,B12-1,58
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao met with several GOP lawmakers Wednesday, where she got input on ways to fulfill one of Trump’s top campaign promises: fixing America’s crumbling roads, bridges, and airports.
Originally slated for fall, the infrastructure bill got bumped up after the failure of an Obamacare repeal and replacement last month. Chao now says to expect action sometime in May.
Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., a former member of Trump’s transition team, called that “music to my ears.”
Trump “doesn’t wait very long,” Barletta told The Hill. “He’s moving forward quickly, and I think Congress needs to begin to run instead of skipping.”
At Wednesday’s hourlong meeting with lawmakers, Chao “talked about the infrastructure bill and how important it is to the president,” House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster told The Hill. “Forty-five members were there asking lots of great questions.”
But Rep. John Duncan Jr., R-Tenn., described it differently, saying, “It was a bunch of people asking questions, and they were very parochial questions about specific things in their districts.”
Democrats, meanwhile, were not happy about being left out of the meeting, especially since the infrastructure bill is seen as being high in bipartisan support.
Lawmakers are scrambling to help shape President Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure proposal as the administration considers speeding up its timetable for the legislative package. Dozens of Republican lawmakers on Wednesday offered their ideas to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao about the emerging plan to repair U.S. roads, bridges and airports, a key campaign promise for Trump. Following a defeat on healthcare reform, Chao said the infrastructure measure could now be unveiled as soon as next month — a major shift from the administration’s initial goal of fall.
“We’ll be willing to process whatever they send us, and we’ll do it in a timely way,” Thune said. “And if it precedes tax reform, then we’ll take it in order. But I think a lot of this is just going to be driven by when the administration is ready to submit and present their proposal.”
Chao said during a town hall event at the White House on Tuesday that the administration is still in the process of crafting a $1 trillion bill that “will probably be in May or late May.” The proposal wasn’t expected to be considered until much later in the year, after Congress tackled healthcare and tax reform. But since the House failed to move forward on ObamaCare repeal last month, some have predicted that the timeline for priorities such as infrastructure may be accelerated.
Republicans at Wednesday’s meeting made their own pitch to Chao about what should be targeted in the bill, according to members who attended the meeting.
“It was a bunch of people asking questions, and they were very parochial questions about specific things in their districts,” said Rep. John Duncan Jr. (R-Tenn.). Lawmakers brought up projects such as a decaying bridge in Ohio, an oft-criticized high-speed rail project in California and an airport in American Samoa without an air traffic control tower. Others voiced complaints about the Army Corps of Engineers and how long it takes for projects to get approved for a permit — an issue that Trump has vowed to address in his bill.
There will likely be a wide range of infrastructure interests competing for a slice of the funding pie, which Trump said could top $1 trillion. Chao has said the legislation could include money for energy, water, broadband and veterans hospitals, while Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson has maintained that it could include funding for housing, according to The Washington Post.
Trump has also floated the idea of giving projects a 90-day deadline to get off the ground in order to receive any funding. “We’re going to be very strong that it has to be spent on shovels, not on other programs,” Trump said Tuesday. “If you have a job that you can’t start within 90 days, we’re not going to give you the money for it.”
But Shuster said key details of the measure, such as how to pay for it and how to best leverage private-sector dollars, still need to be worked out. Some lawmakers are pressing Trump to use international tax reform to pay for infrastructure upgrades.
Reps. John Delaney (D-Md.), Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) and Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) have presented their ideas to the administration. The trio recently introduced legislation aimed at tapping into cash stored overseas and using that revenue to revitalize the country’s infrastructure.
” But questions remain over whether Trump’s proposal would be able to move quickly through Congress, where long-term funding solutions for infrastructure have long remained elusive.
Infrastructure could also bump up against other priorities if the bill is released in the spring. Lawmakers need to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration before its legal authority expires in September, while tax reform and healthcare may still be on table.
source–newsmax, greg richter, elaine chao, lou barletta, melaine zanona, bill schuster, john delaney, ted yoho, rodney davis,