Five members of Trump’s cabinet testified before the Senate on the urgent need for a full scale overhaul of America’s infrastructure. It has long been known that infrastructure spending has been the ‘phase II’ cornerstone of Trump’s economic agenda.
Wilbur Ross, Elaine Chao, Rick Perry, Alex Acosta and Sonny Perdue went to begin hammering out a deal with the Senate over what exactly to prioritize, and how projects could be funded. In fact, this was the third time during this month that Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao was before the Senate, urging them to move on infrastructure issues.
President Trump’s infrastructure proposal would require $200 billion seed funding from the federal government, to be matched by state and local authorities, as a nationwide infrastructure revitalization would take place.
The Republican led Senate, however, is not yet bought in to the plan. Fiscal hawks are pointing out that the plan’s actual cost could be up to $1.5 trillion. Chairman of the Commerce Committee, John Thune (R-S.D.) explained that he had concerns over where the money would come from.
After the hearing, he told reporters that, “I think it’s realistic that something could happen that would constitute a down payment on a bigger, more robust bill,”, and then added, “I think the key right now is whether or not we have sufficient resources to fund an infrastructure package.”
This issue of funding an infrastructure project has presented a problem for lawmakers over the years leading to no major improvements being made. Democrats are wielding this as an argument to oppose the infrastructure plan.
Committee member Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) asked during the hearing, “So how are we going to pay for it?” and was quoted saying, “We can’t toll our way out of it”.
Labor Secretary Alex Acosta highlighted the positive impact that an infrastructure plan would have on the American labor force, and industry – noting that such a large project would also require streamlining of trade licenses and more apprenticeships.
Acosta said, “As we build infrastructure, we must also ensure that we think about the American workforce that will build this infrastructure and that ultimately benefits from these efforts”.
Energy Secretary Rick Perry took time to highlight how the infrastructure plan is being structured to honor America’s federalist tradition. “First and foremost, the President’s plan, it embraces America’s time-honored federalist tradition,” he said. Adding, “The President’s plan gives the nation’s governors the power and the flexibility to prioritize infrastructure projects that would benefit their respective states”.