Republicans Remain Hopeful on Infrastructure, but Funding Still an Open Question
‘Congress will have a say’ in infrastructure framework, Thune says
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — Infrastructure is set to be a major topic of discussion at the GOP retreat, but how to fund a package that could total as much as $1.5 trillion remains an open question that Republican lawmakers must grapple with.
Republican leaders said they will rely significantly on funding commitments from private industry to help offset the cost of the yet to be released package. But funding within the bill — possibly upwards of a quarter of the total money — are also expected to be directed specifically to those regions that can’t bring in enough outside capital to pay for certain projects involving roads, bridges and broadband internet.
“The question is how do we pay for it,” House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington told reporters Thursday morning. “If we can find a way to pay for it, I believe that the Republicans and the Democrats would love to be able to move froward and deliver a major infrastructure package for the country.”
The retreat will feature a breakout session on Thursday dedicated to infrastructure, according to a schedule of events. The panel includes Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and White House chief economic adviser Gary Cohn. Republican members will also hear from President Donald Trump, who has listed infrastructure as a key priority for 2018.
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Senate Republican Conference Chair John Thune of South Dakota said the package would rely heavily on public-private partnerships to fund various projects. A portion of the overall funding is also expected be directed to more rural areas that don’t have access to the same amount of capital as their urban counterparts.
“There is going to have to be … a significant commitment of funding to projects in rural areas which obviously can’t benefit or can’t come up with the revenue stream to provide a return to investors,” Thune said. “They are talking about 25 percent of the total [public] funding … going towards those types of projects.”
The White House has yet to release its long-promised infrastructure framework. While Thune said that proposal could serve as a starting point, he also cautioned that both the House and Senate would exercise their authority in the space.
“They are going to have, I think, a starting point, but it will represent a starting point. Congress is going to have a say in this,” he told reporters.