‘ITS TIME TO START INVESTING IN OUR COUNTRY’: Trump unveils long-awaited $1.5 Trillion infrastructure plan

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Donald Trump on Monday unveailed a massive infrastructure plan that aims to rehabilitate the nation’s roads, bridges, tunnels, and airports (https://tinyurl.com/y9442k9f).

If passed, the plan would generate $1.5 trillion toward the improvement of roads, bridges, waterways, electrical grids and other projects.

The plan does not disclose exactly where the funds would come from, but the White House said the monies would be pulled from “existing government spending,” extracted from the federal budget. The remainder, says the White House, would be left accountable to the states.

Trump’s plan is contradictory to typical spending on infrastructure, as, up until now, the federal government has typically covered the bulk of such costs. If implemented, local governments would now take on 80% or more of the costs of funding such projects.

“It could be anything,” an administration official said of the non-federal funding sources. “What we’re saying to states is, we would like you to increase your investment in infrastructure.”

Another major concentration of Trump’s infrastructure plan is the expediting of the approval process for bigger projects, specifically the cutting down of regulatory red tape. The White House says part of its stated goal is to streamline approval of such projects from the current five to 10 years, down to two. The plan calls for one agency to make the final approvals on such permitting — which the White House refers to as the “one agency, one decision” approach.

Despite the mutually agreed upon need for improvement to the nation’s infrastructure, the 53-page is already proving to be a tough sell to Democrats.

“This is not a real infrastructure plan — it’s simply another scam, an attempt by this administration to privatize critical government functions, and create windfalls for their buddies on Wall Street,” Rep. Peter DeFazio, a Democrat who serves on the House Transportation Committee said Sunday.

“This fake proposal will not address the serious infrastructure needs facing this country, so our potholed roads will get worse, our bridges and transit systems will become more dangerous, and our tolls will become higher. And Wall Street? They’ll throw another party,” DeFazio added.

“I think [the budget deal] does hurt the chances for an infrastructure package to get done, unless you use the money we’re just now spending,” House Freedom Caucus chair Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina told Axios. “I think there’s not going to be the appetite to continue to add additional monies without real offsets.”

Despite the pushback, President Trump says an overhaul traditional infrastructure programs is long overdue.

“The current system is fundamentally broken and it’s broken in two different ways,” a senior administration official told reporters on Saturday. “We are underinvesting in our infrastructure, and we have a permitting process that takes so long that even when funds are adequate, it can take a decade to build critical infrastructure.”

“For too long, lawmakers have invested in infrastructure inefficiently, ignored critical needs, and allowed it to deteriorate,” the president said in a note to Congress introducing the plan. “It is time to give Americans the working, modern infrastructure they deserve.”

In a briefing on the matter, the White House said the plan would require both actions by Congress and regulatory changes that could be accomplished under executive order.

“This will be a big week for Infrastructure,” Trump tweeted Monday morning ahead of the plan’s release (https://tinyurl.com/yby6d7xh). “After so stupidly spending $7 trillion in the Middle East, it is now time to start investing in OUR Country!”








‘ART OF THE DEAL’: Senate works together to avoid government shutdown, passes spending plan

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Senate leaders announced on Wednesday a proposed spending plan that would boost defense spending and avoid another dreaded government shutdown.

“I am pleased to announce that our bipartisan, bicameral negotiations on defense spending and other priorities have yielded a significant agreement,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in an announcement on the House floor. “The compromise we’ve reached will ensure for the first time in years our armed forces will have more of the resources they need to keep them safe.”

If passed, the two-year budget deal would boost military and non-defense budgets by $300 billion and clear the way for more than $80 billion in disaster relief, with roughly $160 billion dedicated to Pentagon spending and another $128 billion toward non-defense government programs.

Less enthusiastic than McConnel, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said of the agreement, “We have reached a budget deal that neither side loves, but both sides can be proud of.”

The agreement would also include disaster relief for areas stricken by natural disasters and impose a four-year extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). A $6 billion budget for opioid treatment is also factored into the bill as is $20 billion to be set aside for infrastructure.

Just prior to the proposed legislation being formally made public, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi announced she will vote to prevent it’s passage if the deal isn’t revised to include funding for DACA.

“This morning, we took a measure of our Caucus because the package does nothing to advance bipartisan legislation to protect Dreamers in the House,” Pelosi said in a statement. “Without a commitment from Speaker Ryan comparable to the commitment from Leader McConnell, this package does not have my support.”

The House passed a short-term spending bill Tuesday, which was aimed at keeping the government operational until a budget deal could be made. That bill also included a full-year of funding for defense spending, which both parties agreed was necessary.


‘SHUT HER DOWN’: Kentucky Senator Rand Paul says he won’t back spending bill despite threat of government shutdown

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Kentucky Senator Rand Paul announced Tuesday that he will refuse to back a spending bill that, if passed, would provide the funds needed to allow the federal government to continue operation without shutting down.

“I cannot in good conscience vote to add more to the already massive $20 trillion debt. I promised Kentucky to vote against reckless, deficit spending and I will do just that,” Paul said in a tweet (https://twitter.com/RandPaul/status/940639780911665153?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Ftownhall.com%2Ftipsheet%2Fleahbarkoukis%2F2017%2F12%2F12%2Fpaul-explains-vote-spending-bill-n2421559).

“The end-of-the-year spending bill will continue spending money like there’s no tomorrow,” Paul said in a video accompanying the tweet in which he criticises the proposed legislation.

Paul’s comments come after lawmakers last week approved a two-week spending bill to temporarily sustain the operation of government, but the Congressional budget office says a long-term spending bill is required in order to keep the federal government operating beyond December 22.

A previous analysis of the proposed legislation (http://thehill.com/policy/finance/362649-jct-says-senate-tax-bill-will-add-1t-to-deficits-even-with-growth) estimated that, should the bill pass, it would add roughly $1 trillion to the national deficit over the course of the next decade.

Paul, who voted in favor of the Republican tax bill last month, said the two pieces of legislation are as different as night and day.

“Tax cuts — people keeping more of their money — are never the problem, Paul said in a follow-up tweet. “The problem is spending. We should obey our rules, stop the deficit spending, and shrink government.”