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Trump, Congress Eye Possibility of Infrastructure Bill in 2019

Transportation Topics

While the new Congress and the White House kick off 2019 in the midst of a partial government shutdown, President Donald Trump and the leadership of the U.S. House and Senate have acknowledged that authorizing funding for infrastructure projects will be atop their legislative priorities.

After it abandoned its infrastructure agenda shortly after proposing a 10-year, $1.5 trillion plan in February 2018, the White House appears ready to try pushing a plan again this year with a divided legislative branch.

Counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway noted the potential for advancing the policy. Speaking to reporters at the White House on Jan. 3, she said, “We see some of the Democrats making joyful noises about infrastructure and keeping the economy humming and hopefully we can rely upon them.”

Identifying a long-term source of funding for big-ticket construction and maintenance projects, however, remains elusive. Transportation policymakers rejected the president’s plan due to its significant reliance on private sector backing. They continue to disagree on the best approach for securing dollars into a federal highway account headed toward insolvency in less than three years. As Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) put it after the midterm elections, “The question is how are you going to pay for it and that always becomes very challenging because there’s no sort of easy way to pay for infrastructure without impacting an awful lot of Americans.”

Besides the funding question, the ongoing tense debate over immigration that led Trump to proceed with the partial shutdown also threatens an infrastructure package. If Democrats continue to oppose his efforts for a wall along the southern border, Trump suggested an unwillingness to consider a deal on infrastructure policy in the near future.

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