Congressmen Rodney Davis (R-IL), Ted Yoho (R-FL), and John Delaney (D-MD) outlined their vision for future domestic infrastructure investments at Bloomberg’s Next Infrastructure Forum on Wednesday in Washington, DC.
Despite legislative inaction of several of President Trump’s initiatives ranging from health care to immigration, the congressmen laid out an ambitious roadmap for improving dilapidated infrastructure.
Congressman Davis opened the discussion with optimism after being questioned by Moderator Kevin Cirilli on the likelihood of Congress passing an infrastructure bill before the 2018 midterm elections. Referring to Republican victories in Tuesday’s special elections in Georgia and South Carolina, he claimed:
I actually am probably one of the optimists after yesterday’s election results. I look back to when Democrats were in control in the Obama administration and there was a push before I got here for [Republicans] to vote no on everything and deny the president a win politically. And I — many of you in this room have heard me say it in the last few weeks — I doubted we could get a single vote from the Democratic side of the aisle on any infrastructure bill. But, I’m actually pretty optimistic that we can now, because it’s not going to be about just the elections, and I hope that with today’s discussion, we can take a page out of [former Department of Transportation] Secretary LaHood’s playbook… who’s not only talked about bipartisanship, he’s lived it, and that’s the message that we gotta send, so I think after yesterday, I’m more optimistic than I ever was.
In regards to any conservative opposition to infrastructure spending, Congressman Yoho did not express significant concern. He also voiced a pressing need for infrastructure upgrades, with the possibility of congress skipping its August recess to pass legislation pertaining to infrastructure and other Republican agenda items. He stated:
I’m a member of the Freedom Caucus, but I’ve become a lot more learned in my four and a half years here, and when I came up here everybody says we can’t do it now as John alluded to, because we’re going into the midterm, but you know there’s an election every two years, and so we’ve got to get something done. It’s kind of like saying, damn the election, do what you have to do to get stuff done for this country. I probably differ from a lot of people in Congress. I’m not worried about the next election, I’m worried about what we’re doing to get the infrastructure done. And if you do your job, I don’t think you have to worry about an election. And we’ve sent a letter to the leadership saying I think we should cancel August until we get some of these very important things done for this country.
He also claimed that as a member of the House Freedom Caucus, he was working to include infrastructure funding in the group’s tax proposal plan.
Congressmen Delaney took a more measured approach than Congressman Davis. He stressed that infrastructure improvements would have a realistic chance only if they were part of a deal on tax reform. He stated:
I think the answer to the question depends upon whether infrastructure is proposed as part of tax reform, which I don’t really know the answer to that yet… [Will congress] pursue a sequential approach or will they combine them as part of one package? I think if they combine them as part of one package in the Congress, the likelihood of doing infrastructure increases. I think if tax reform is done first on its own with the view that infrastructure will be done after tax reform, I think the chances of that happening are very low, because one of two things will happen to tax reform. Either it won’t happen, probably the highest probability, and that will kind of be the one shot to do something before the ’18 midterms, and it will become so political after a failed tax reform effort, it will be hard to do something. Or, if it happens, some tax reform gets done, without infrastructure, the chances of the people who are doing the tax reform setting aside some money to do infrastructure I think is almost nonexistent, so then if you get tax reform done and you turn to infrastructure, and its likely there’s no money for infrastructure, whatever money we could bring out, the government would just use for tax reform.
Delaney went on to voice support for tying tax reform to infrastructure to have the revenues to finance improvements in bridges, roadways, air systems and telecommunications among other infrastructure aspects. He also voiced a consensus with the panel on using an infrastructure bank to fund future projects.
President Trump made infrastructure a centerpiece of his “Make America Great Again” agenda. In May, the president unveiled a $1 trillion initiative on infrastructure.
Trump’s 2018 fiscal year budget, “A New Foundation for American Greatness” stipulates, “The President has consistently emphasized that the Nation’s infrastructure needs to be rebuilt and modernized to create jobs, maintain America’s economic competitiveness, and connect communities and people to more opportunities. Unfortunately, the United States no longer has the best infrastructure in the world.”