Republicans may wait until 2018 to take on a national infrastructure bill, putting on hold one of President Trump’s major campaign promises.
Republican congressional leaders have said they will tackle Trump’s promise to spend as much as $1 trillion on infrastructure, a rare recipient of bipartisan support, during the president’s first 200 days in office. But according to a report in Axios, Trump and Republican leaders are now thinking of holding off on an infrastructure plan until next year.
Putting infrastructure on the back burner would allow Republicans to focus on other priorities like healthcare, immigration and tax reform. Republican strategists told Axios it would also put pressure on Democrats during a congressional election year, forcing members of the party to choose between handing Trump a policy win and opposing a plan likely to be popular within their districts and among blue collar unions.
Democrats, though, have supported increased infrastructure spending. Minority leaders have cited the issue as one source of common ground with the new administration, with Senate Democrats releasing their own $1 trillion proposal in January.
Trump may have more trouble convincing his own party, as the Republican leadership has resisted upping spending for an infrastructure bill. House Speaker Paul Ryan has expressed tepid support for an infrastructure push but has highlighted leveraging private dollars, echoing elements of a proposal issued by Trump advisors Wilbur Ross and Peter Navarro shortly before the election.
The Ross-Navarro plan, which would offer tax credits to private investors, has not won much enthusiasm from either party. Democrats have highlighted the need for direct spending, while some Republicans are concerned rural areas would be left out of any plan that relies on private dollars.
Any move to delay tackling infrastructure is likely to anger Democrats. Shortly after the Axios report was published, Democratic Representative John Delaney blasted Republicans for “big talk” and little action on infrastructure.
“Delaying something for a year is just the first step to never doing it in the first place,” said the Maryland congressman, who has pushed for an infrastructure bill. “The American people are the losers in this political game.”