Congress Cool to Trump Plan for $1 Trillion in Infrastructure Projects

WASHINGTON (CN) – Democrats Tuesday levied heavy criticism against the highly-anticipated $1 trillion plan President Trump began rolling out on Monday to overhaul the nation’s crumbling roads, bridges, railways and airports.

Republicans also criticized the plan, potentially dashing hopes that a bipartisan chorus of lawmakers will throw their weight behind something the president had prioritized during his campaign.

Trump kicked off what the White House dubbed “Infrastructure Week” on Monday by announcing he wants to peel away air traffic control system operations from the Federal Aviation Administration and privatize it.

“We’re proposing reduced wait times, increased route efficiency, and far fewer delays,” Trump said during early afternoon remarks Monday. “We will launch this air travel revolution by modernizing the outdated system of air traffic control,” he added, noting that the FAA has for years tried to upgrade the system.

While the proposal drew praise from several editorial newspaper editorial boards, including the Washington Post, it did not go over so well with a bipartisan group of lawmakers.

On the heels of a presidential election that left the anti-Trump camp calling for fierce resistance to all of his policies, Democrats like New York Sen. Chuck Schumer had expressed optimism that overhauling the nation’s infrastructure was one area they could work with the new president on.

But based on swift reactions from lawmakers Monday, the president’s plan – which still needs to be fleshed out – might dwindle on Capitol Hill.

Schumer said the president’s focus on privatization indicates that Americans will get slapped with tolls while the pockets of financiers are lined at the expense of average Americans.

The plan will largely shift the cost burden away from the federal government, forcing cities, states and businesses to find ways to pay for rebuilding their crumbling infrastructure.

On Twitter, Schumer suggested that would lead to less construction and fewer jobs, especially in rural areas.

“It also means that places where they can’t build a toll, like in our crumbling schools, average Americans will likely get left behind,” Schumer said in a tweet.

Democrats would prefer to leave the private sector out of any infrastructure overhaul, preferring instead to add $1 trillion to the deficit to cover the cost of a wide range of projects they say will create 15 million jobs over a decade.

Though Republicans might not agree with their Democratic counterparts on that point, some also took to social media Monday to criticize the president’s plan.

Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas said privatization of air traffic control would hurt all but the nation’s largest airports.

“Proposals to privatize air traffic control threaten the reliable transportation options provided by small airports and the general aviation community for millions of Americans,” he said in a tweet.

“Privatization eliminates the chance for Congress and the American people to provide oversight,” he added, noting that it would also create marketplace uncertainty and raise prices for consumers.

The details of the president’s plan remain scarce but according to what Mr. Trump has put forth so far, the plan would theoretically leverage $1 trillion in construction through $200 billion in tax breaks spanning nine years.

During a White House press briefing Tuesday afternoon, press secretary Sean Spicer said the president is considering project pools.

“One of the issues that has been discussed with respect to the president’s infrastructure plan is creating different pools of projects that allow for innovation, that allow for prioritization,” Spicer said. “And so that will be something that is again, in partnership with localities – with states – to figure out what their priorities are, what they can do to help raise the necessary funds and to really do this in a business-like, innovative way.”

At the Senate leadership press conference Tuesday, Republican Roy Blunt of Missouri expressed optimism that Democrats and Republicans will be able to work together on infrastructure.

“I think you’re going to see a number of bipartisan efforts to put different tools out there that will encourage more private-public partnerships,” Blunt said.

The White House has scheduled a series of events for “Infrastructure Week,” including  meetings  with some of the nation’s governors and mayors to drum up more support for the president’s efforts to use a combination of public and private funding for infrastructure projects.

President Trump is scheduled to travel to Ohio on Wednesday to address improvements to levees, dams and locks on inland waterways that are essential components of agricultural exports.

 

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