House Republicans Ask White House To Block Funding For New York Tunnel

Mick Mulvaney Getty Images/Astrid Riecken

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House Republicans want budget Director Mick Mulvaney to block funding for a New York tunnel project through the White House’s unreleased plan to retroactively reduce funding in the federal budget.

Twenty-six Republican Congress members urged the administration in a letter to Mulvaney Thursday to use the rescission request — a rarely used, last-resort budget device that allows the president to ask Congress for specific cuts to an approved budget — to make it impossible for federal funds to go to the Gateway Program.

A number of Republicans have fought against contributing taxpayer dollars to the Gateway project, which includes an Amtrak rail tunnel underneath the Hudson River into Manhattan. Budget estimates for the project have grown from $13.5 billion to $29.5 billion over the years, and New Jersey and New York states have not committed much money to it, even though politicians call it an essential infrastructure project.

“I’ve been fighting the Gateway Project since last year,” North Carolina Republican Rep. Ted Budd said in a statement. Thursday’s “letter sends the same message that my amendment on this issue did: House Republicans do not want this tunnel funded. I’m hopeful that the package of spending cuts that the president sends to Congress will include these funds.”

“The president did not get his wall in the Omnibus. [New York Democratic Sen.] Chuck Schumer should not get his tunnel,” Budd said.

President Donald Trump at one point threatened to veto the entire omnibus spending bill if it included funding for the Gateway project, according to several reports. The final package he signed didn’t directly fund the project, but also didn’t specifically prohibit funding for it.

Budd and the other House members want Mulvaney, head of the Office of Management and Budget, to request Congress remove $388 million from Amtrak’s reported $650 million 2018 budget and rescind at least $250 million from the state-federal partnership grants known as State of Good Repair Grants.

Mulvaney expects to submit the rescission package in early May, and Congress will have 45 days decide whether to consider the cuts. The White House could propose cutting between $30 billion and $60 billion from the budget, Politico reported.

Schumer has said the tunnel and other Gateway projects are critical to the U.S. economy, and that despite the president’s objections, the construction will move forward.

“Gateway is one of the very most important infrastructure programs in our country,” Schumer said during a news conference in March before the omnibus was finalized. “If those two tunnels that are now under the Hudson River are no longer functional, there will be recession in the entire country, not just in New York, New Jersey, the Northeast corridor.”

Schumer added that even though the president wanted to block the plan, it would likely progress. “From everything I hear, it’s all systems move ahead despite what the President had to say,” Schumer said.

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