" Both parties should be able to unite for a great rebuilding of America's crumbling infrastructure," President Trump said in his last State of the Union address — but his failure - according to democrats - to provide specifics left Democrats wondering how likely it is that the two sides can reach common ground.
"The Trump Administration has failed repeatedly over the past two years to put forth a serious proposal on how to address our infrastructure needs,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said in a statement to the m “The President’s comments on the need to work together to improve our nation’s infrastructure are a good start, but action must be taken."
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., said he pledged to "work to build bipartisan agreement around legislation, but I can’t do it alone."
“This will require massive effort from the White House, stakeholders, and supporters in Congress to get something real across the finish line,” DeFazio said in a statement.
DeFazio emphasized that any infrastructure plan must include significant federal investment — a point that stands in stark contrast with Trump’s proposal to rely primarily on private investment.
Without addressing the “looming crisis facing the Highway Trust Fund,” investing in infrastructure can’t happen, DeFazio said. The Congressional Budget Office anticipates that the Highway Trust Fund will become insolvent by 2020.
“Any serious infrastructure proposal must provide sustainable, long-term federal funding so we can make these necessary investments, create millions of living-wage American jobs, increase economic growth, and decrease congestion and emissions,” DeFazio said.
Ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Sam Graves, R-Mo., also said infrastructure plans that would solve long-term funding issues were critical, along with solutions that “cut the time and costs involved in the project delivery process and recognize that a modern economy demands the safe and timely integration of 21st century technology.”
“It’s up to Congress to work together and with the administration to find common ground on issues that pose real threats to the future of our infrastructure network,” Graves said in a statement.
Since his 2016 campaign, Trump has discussed prioritizing infrastructure. In February, The White House released a blueprint that proposed using $200 billion in federal funds to spur a minimum of $1.3 trillion in infrastructure spending from state and local governments, in addition to private sector buy-in. The plan failed to gain traction on Capitol Hill and was put on the back burner.
Trump reiterated that infrastructure was a “necessity” during the State of the Union, but was - according to the democrats - less specific about spending proposals than in last year’s address.
"I know that the Congress is eager to pass an infrastructure bill — and I am eager to work with you on legislation to deliver new and important infrastructure investment, including investments in the cutting edge industries of the future,” Trump said. “This is not an option. This is a necessity."
One of the biggest obstacles facing lawmakers is how to pay for an infrastructure plan, but some ideas have been tossed out. For example, Graves backs imposing a vehicle miles-traveled tax, or VMT, which would make users’ fees dependent on their mileage. Other options floated by democratic lawmakers include repealing some of Trump’s tax cuts and raising the corporate tax rate, or raising the federal gas tax.
Despite lawmakers’ appetite for a massive infrastructure overhaul, Joseph Kane, a senior research analyst and associate fellow of the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution, cast doubt on whether the Trump administration and Congress could deliver such a measure.
“Rebuilding America was supposed to be a major pillar of the President's speech — and policy agenda — but the lack of any details was quite telling,” Kane said.
According to Kane, the State of the Union address was the ideal opportunity to pitch infrastructure “if the administration was truly serious about an innovative, bipartisan approach to solving the country’s infrastructure challenges.”
“But it was once again just another talking point buried in the middle of a long list of other policy items,” Kane said. “Time will tell if the President and Congress can advance a substantive conversation leading to potential legislation, but the signs do not look promising at the moment.”