By Dean Franks, vice president of congressional affairs, ARTBA
As some Republicans demur on the size and scope of an infrastructure package, President Donald Trump and Senate Democrats are pushing the issue forward.
Since the Democrats in the Senate Jan. 25 rolled out their idea of what a $1 trillion infrastructure package should look like, rhetoric has continued, mainly from Trump. His efforts to recruit his fellow Republicans, who have traditionally been wary of big spending packages, particularly those that aren’t offset with cuts elsewhere in the government, continued at the GOP congressional retreat in Philadelphia.
In his Jan. 26 address to the group, Trump stated, “We believe the world’s best country ought to have the world’s best infrastructure. It is what our people deserve and it is what we will ensure they get. Our infrastructure is in serious trouble. We will build new roads and highways and tunnels and airports and railways across the nation. We will fix our existing product before we build anything brand new. We have to fix what we have. We will fix it first. We have a lot of things that are in bad shape.”
Trump also emphasized infrastructure investment during his Jan. 23 meeting with business executives, Press Secretary Sean Spicer told the media later the same day. The president talked “about how so many of our airports, that are so important to our commerce system, getting planes to land in and out, roads and their ability to truck things across the country, even our freight system. That if our infrastructure is not strong, it inhibits our ability to have free commerce, it inhibits — it drives up the cost of goods and services, when someone’s got to take a different route. Or is limited in the opportunities that they have because their runway might be closed or it can’t be expanded or a rail line breaks down. Or highways just not — the wear and tear it puts on trucks or shut down. So infrastructure continues to be huge priority for him, ” Spicer said.
The Trump administration will likely soon have another advocate for significant transportation investment. The Senate is expected to vote Jan. 31 on Elaine Chao, the nominee to lead the U.S. Department of Transportation. Her nomination was approved Jan. 24 by voice vote in the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.