Off The Wire
Exclusive: Trump meets with Cabinet officials to revive infrastructure push - sources
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump is reviving efforts to win approval for a significant infrastructure plan lasting up to 13 years, two people briefed on the matter said, as the administration seeks to bring a long-stalled campaign promise back to life.
In a meeting of top advisers at the White House on Tuesday, the sources, who declined to be identified since the meeting was not public, said participants discussed aspects of a potential infrastructure plan and whether to include details of it in Trump’s State of the Union address scheduled for later this month.
About 20 officials took part in the more than hour-long meeting with Trump, including Vice President Mike Pence, White House senior adviser Ivanka Trump, acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, the sources said.
They discussed how to incorporate into the plan funding for a next-generation wireless network, known as 5G, and potentially using the plan to modernize the U.S. air traffic control system, the people said. It followed a senior staff-level meeting on infrastructure earlier this month.
A White House official confirmed the meeting took place but declined to comment further.
The administration is considering a 13-year program but has not settled on key issues, including whether it will propose new ways to pay for increased spending.
The 13-year time frame mirrors the longest-ever highway funding program. In 1956, Congress authorized $25 billion from the budget years 1957 through 1969. The current highway bill expires in September 2020 and could be a vehicle for new infrastructure spending.
Officials may have another meeting on raising the subject in the State of the Union before a final decision. The White House may only insert a reference to Trump’s eagerness to work with Democrats to get a deal done. Trump has said on several occasions since he was elected in 2016 that he wants to reach across the aisle on the issue.
Democrats took control of the House of Representatives this month after November’s congressional elections. Republicans still control the Senate.
While both parties support an infrastructure overhaul, a showdown looms over funding for the project.
Democrats insist any plan must include new revenue. Trump administration officials have been meeting with congressional Democrats in recent months to talk about highway funding and infrastructure issues.
The administration proposed a plan last year to use $200 billion in federal funds to try to stimulate $1.5 trillion in infrastructure improvements over 10 years, but would have cut an equivalent amount in projected infrastructure spending from the federal budget as it shifted more costs to states and cities.
The plan was declared dead on arrival and never got a vote in Congress.
The Trump administration has not decided how much, if any, of last year’s plan to include in its new proposal.
Democratic U.S. Representative Peter DeFazio, who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, wants the White House to back significant additional federal funds to rebuild crumbling U.S. roads, bridges and airports.
“There has to be real money, real investment,” DeFazio said in November. “We’re not going to do pretend stuff like asset recycling. We’re not going to do massive privatization.”
Reporting by David Shepardson and Alexandra Alper; Writing by Alexandra Alper; Editing by Chris Sanders and Peter Cooney