White House Updates Senators on Trump's Infrastructure Plan

A highway worker directs traffic around a bridge under construction in River Falls, Wisconsin, during August 2016.

A highway worker directs traffic around a bridge under construction in River Falls, Wisconsin, during August 2016. Shutterstock/ digitalreflections


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Administration officials told the lawmakers to expect more details about the proposal around the time of the president's State of the Union address, Sen. John Barrasso said Wednesday.

WASHINGTON — The top Republican on the Senate's public works committee said Wednesday that Trump administration officials informed him and other lawmakers in a meeting Tuesday that the White House would release details about its infrastructure plan around the time of the president's Jan. 30 State of the Union address.

"Certainly within the next month," Sen. John Barrasso, the Wyoming Republican who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee, told reporters, as he discussed when additional information about the proposal would be released.

White House officials previously signaled that they were aiming to release the long-awaited plan sometime in January.

Barrasso said that most members of his committee, both Republicans and Democrats, attended Tuesday's meeting. White House officials that were on hand included Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, chief economic adviser Gary Cohn and DJ Gribbin, who is a special assistant to the president on infrastructure policy, according to Barrasso.

The committee's ranking member, Sen. Tom Carper, of Delaware, described the meeting as civil and constructive.

Both he and Barrasso sidestepped questions about where lawmakers might find the $200 billion of federal funding the White House has indicated it would like to see included in its infrastructure package.

"We'll talk about it as time goes on," Barrasso said in response to a question about whether he had any preference for where the money could come from.

Asked if he had a favored approach for how to come up with the $200 billion sum, Carper responded: "Not today."

Trump administration officials have previously described a plan that would involve $200 billion of direct federal spending over a decade, combined with $800 billion from private and state and local government sources. Carper said he and other Democrats are skeptical the $200 billion could be "leveraged" to come up with the $800 billion. 

"Can we save some money on streamlining? Sure. We've already done that. Can we do more? Probably. Can we better leverage private sector money, and money from other sources? Probably," Carper said. "Does it add up to $800 billion? I'm not sure that it does."

The White House has also indicated that thinning down and speeding up federal permitting and approval processes for projects will be a part of its program.

Trump in a separate bipartisan meeting with lawmakers on Tuesday continued to tout the viability of his pending public works plan—one of his stated priorities since taking office.

"One thing that I think we can really get along with on a bipartisan basis—and maybe I’m stronger on this than a lot of the people on the Republican side, but I will tell you, we have great support from the Republicans—is infrastructure," he said, according to a White House transcript of the meeting. 

"I think we can do a great infrastructure bill," the president continued. "I think we're going to have a lot of support from both sides, and I’d like to get it done as quickly as possible."

Carper noted that Republicans on the Environment and Public Works Committee are working on authorizing language that could guide new spending on infrastructure that is called for in the White House plan, and that Democrats are working on a similar package.

But he added: "We need for the administration to show us their proposal. Not just principles. But what do they actually want to do."

Bill Lucia is a Senior Reporter for Government Executive's Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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