Infrastructure, freight agenda not advancing on Capitol Hill

From Transport Topics.

As they approach the legislative calendar’s halfway point, Republicans have been unable to carve a path forward for President Donald Trump’s multi-year infrastructure funding plan, despite their control of the U.S. House and Senate.

Trump had promised to deliver an infrastructure measure to Congress during his first 100 days in office. Instead, the White House unveiled guiding “principles” for a $1 trillion, 10-year infrastructure funding plan.

In June, Trump and his Cabinet hosted infrastructure-centric programs around the country to promote the proposal’s goal of streamlining environmental regulations pertaining to construction projects. The plan also calls for $200 billion in federal funding to generate $800 billion in private-sector investments.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao assured lawmakers in May that the legislative text for the plan’s “principles” would be unveiled in early fall, but at the Aspen Ideas Festival on June 29, she noted that hurdles exist in meeting that timeline — especially finding the funding.

“There’s just differences about the most difficult thing, which is the ‘pay fors,’ ” she said, referring to sources of funding for legislation. “Everybody agrees that we need to fix the infrastructure, but there’s disagreement about how to pay for it and who to pay for it,” Chao said.

The delay on an infrastructure measure on Capitol Hill, as well as an overhaul of the U.S. tax code, is due primarily to Congress’ inaction to send Trump an overhaul of a 2010 health care law, GOP leaders said.

A resolution on health care is not evident, prompting Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the chamber’s top transportation policymaker, to express doubts over the GOP leadership’s ability to create room this fall for a comprehensive infrastructure package.

“We’re sort of waiting on the administration to tell us what it is exactly they want to do,” Thune told reporters shortly before the July 4 break. “I look at the calendar and realize how hard it’s going to be to transact major legislation that requires a good amount of floor time.”