By David Bauer, senior vice president of government relations, ARTBA
Upgrading the nation’s infrastructure network was the first policy initiative President-elect Donald Trump cited during his Nov. 9 victory speech.
“We are going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals,” he said. “We’re going to rebuild our infrastructure, which will become, by the way, second to none, and we will put millions of our people to work as we rebuild it.”
While the President-elect’s enthusiasm for infrastructure investment has never been in doubt, it remains unclear if Republican leaders in Congress share his view.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has thrown cold water on Trump’s infrastructure plans, saying it is “not a top priority,” NPR reported Nov. 9. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has insisted the focus of House Republicans in 2017 will be on the policy initiatives included in the “A Better Way” governing vision he released earlier this year. He was dismissive of Trump’s campaign promises to spend even more on infrastructure than the $275 billion proposed by Hillary Clinton. “ ‘That’s not in the Better Way agenda,’ he said, laughing,” The Atlantic reported Oct. 6.
Not surprisingly, conservative activists in Washington, D.C., who consistently oppose virtually all federal transportation initiatives, are working to obstruct a Trump infrastructure plans. “Conservatives do not view infrastructure spending as an economic stimulus, and congressional Republicans rightly rejected that approach in 2009,” a Heritage Action for America spokesman said.
Meanwhile, Democratic leaders in the House and Senate this week pointed to infrastructure spending as an area of common ground with the President-elect and are urging swift action on such a measure.
ARTBA President & CEO Pete Ruane has continued to highlight the broad bipartisan support that exists for transportation infrastructure investment and the potential healing effect an infrastructure package could have following a divisive election. He also underscored that accomplishing these goals remains challenging.
“Many other priorities and international events have sidetracked other presidents from their campaign promises. Nonetheless, we remain focused and committed to getting a real solution in 2017,” Ruane said.