White House Officials Doubt Congress Can Pass Trump’s Infrastructure Plan

Thomas Phippen | Reporter

The White House is pushing President Donald Trump’s plan to generate $1.5 trillion into infrastructure, but it likely won’t happen in 2018, officials said Wednesday.

“We see quite a bit of movement on Capitol Hill right now on different elements of the president’s plan, so I think the odds that pieces of this pass this year are very, very high,” one official told reporters on a conference call. “Will we get the entire bill this year? That’s more of a stretch.”

Trump will push infrastructure during a speech in Ohio Thursday. There’s some hope to make progress on getting part of the money for the infrastructure package before the 2018 midterms, while most of it will likely have to wait until 2019.

“We hope to get a big chunk of the plan done this year; but whatever we’re not able to get through this year, we’ll take up next year,” the official said. “We never anticipated this was going to be a quick or easy process, and the president just absolutely is in this for the long haul.”

The president’s plan includes $200 billion federal investment over a decade, which should leverage state, local and private partnerships in infrastructure projects. The plan also relies on streamlining the approval process for projects and allowing agencies to make decisions on funding without going through as many bureaucratic hoops.

The president also wants states and cities to have more skin in the game to ensure projects are truly needed and completed properly.

The White House Council of Economic Advisers released a report Wednesday: a $1.5 trillion infrastructure development program could add between 0.1 and 0.2 percentage point to annual gross domestic product growth. The infrastructure plan would also add 290,000 to 414,000 additional infrastructure workers to the workforce over 10 years, according to the report.

Infrastructure has been on Trump’s agenda since the beginning of his presidency, but there’s little appetite for new funding projects, especially after Congress passed the second-largest government spending bill ever.

“$1.5 trillion, I think, kind of sucked the oxygen out of the room for a moment, as no one expected a number that big,” Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Lankford said when Trump’s infrastructure plan first leaked in January. “And the obvious thing is, where are we with debt and deficit and how are we going to be able to pull it together?”

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