Is Trump’s Infrastructure Plan Already Dead?

Feb 28 2018

President Trump’s infrastructure plan, released earlier this month, appears to be on the slow road to nowhere. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) told reporters Tuesday that Congress may not get to the infrastructure proposal because of other legislative traffic. "I think it's gonna be hard, because we have so many other things to do and we don't have much time," Cornyn said, according to Politico.

Sen. John Thune (R-SD) also cast doubt on whether a public works package would get done. “It could be challenging to get an infrastructure bill done in light of everything else we have to do,” he told Bloomberg.

And House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) said Wednesday that while he hopes Congress can pass a bill before the August recess, they may have to wait until a lame-duck session after the election in November. At the same time, Shuster admitted that "We haven’t passed anything in a lame-duck recently,” adding “Nothing is easy in Washington, D.C."

So what exactly is jamming up the calendar? Not much, says Bloomberg columnist Jonathan Bernstein. “While it's true the Senate still needs to pass long-overdue spending bills in March, the agenda for the remainder of the year looks about as empty as possible,” he writes. “In other words, this is not a bill that they don't have time for. This is a bill that they don't want to take up, and they're making excuses for why they won't.” 

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), chair of the House Freedom Caucus, quipped that the Senate might not have time to deal with infrastructure before the elections because they “may need to get in two or three naps between now and then.”

The White House still insists the infrastructure plan is a priority and it expects Congress to act on Trump’s 53-page blueprint.

Trump’s plan calls for $200 billion in federal spending, meant to stimulate an additional $1.3 trillion in investment by state and local governments and the private sector. But the proposal does not detail how the new federal spending — which some Democrats have criticized as far too meager — would be paid for, and while members of both parties back the idea of infrastructure investment, finding the money has always been a sticking point. It’s even more so now that Congress passed $1.5 trillion in tax cuts and followed up by agreeing to hundreds of billions of dollars in increased spending.

The first congressional hearing on Trump’s proposal is scheduled for Thursday at 10 a.m. ET, with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao slated to testify before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.