October 2017

Trump Officials Assure Republicans an Infrastructure Plan is Coming

By Melanie Zanona
      The Hill

The White House reassured Senate Republicans that President Trump remains committed to rebuilding U.S. roads, bridges, airports and other public works, according to lawmakers who attended a meeting with administration officials on October 18.

“I thought it was a very positive conversation. A lot of clear ideas emerging, a lot of clear commitment to the passage of an infrastructure bill,” Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) told The Hill.

But key details about the long-awaited infrastructure proposal — and an estimated timetable for its release and consideration in Congress — remain up in the air.

"We didn’t spend a lot of time on funding," Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said.

There was “no sense of timing,” Gardner said. Republicans on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee sat down with four officials from the White House to discuss the stalled rebuilding initiative on Wednesday. Policy adviser D.J. Gribbin and Reed Cordish from the Office of American Innovation were both in attendance.

The meeting, which took place on Capitol Hill, offered an opportunity for the administration to update lawmakers about the infrastructure package. Senators also expressed their priorities for a bill, lawmakers said. “It was full attendance,” Gardner said. “It shows people are serious about getting this done.”

The meeting comes as lawmakers have been clamoring for more details about Trump’s infrastructure proposal, which was once billed as a 100-day priority but has been stuck on the sidelines as Congress works on health care and tax reform.

"It was good, and it was overdue," Inhofe said of the meeting. "We need to be talking about this. We have a lot of moving parts, both the Senate and House, and two committees."

The White House outlined a brief sketch of Trump’s infrastructure vision in the administration's budget request earlier this year, vowing to release more details in the third quarter or early fall. But the administration has yet to release any further guidance on the plan. And Trump continues to question the role of public-private partnerships in the plan, raising concerns about how the proposal will be paid for and whether Republicans will be on board with the rebuilding effort.

“He did say he’s no longer excited about public-private partnerships,” Sen. Claire McCaskill (R-Mo.) told reporters Wednesday following a meeting at the White House with Trump to talk about taxes. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), who described the meeting as positive, said he hopes to see infrastructure legislation “as soon as possible,” but acknowledged that could mean “early next year.” Inhofe said lawmakers have not yet "gotten to the point where we’re actually working on language," but added "we’ll start releasing things as soon as we get taxes behind us."

Gardner, however, said he walked away from the discussion feeling more reassured about Trump’s rebuilding push. But stakeholders who were at the White House earlier this month for a briefing on infrastructure are feeling less optimistic. Those present at the meeting said the administration appears no further along on their rebuilding effort, and there was no concrete timeline given for the proposal’s release.

“Very little, if anything, was revealed,” said one source in the room. “I was hoping this would be an opportunity to begin unveiling at least another layer, and there was none of that.”

Reprinted from The Hill, October 18 edition.

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