Not another wall?

Feb. 6, 2019

Trump may stick to his guns regarding highway spending

President Trump has gotten his way with the wall.

This is not a news flash. Every time he wants something and others are not cooperating he quickly stacks up an emotional barrier that forces people to either find a way around it or makes them go back from where they came from. At press time the nation was experiencing the longest government shutdown in history, and it was all over a wall, a physical one designed to keep drug cartels, rapists and other criminals in Mexico. Those are Trump’s words, not mine.

President Trump and Congress have an opportunity to scale what has been one of the worst periods Capitol Hill and the White House have ever produced. In late January the Trump administration reportedly attempted to uncover what has become a buried infrastructure plan. Trump wants a massive 13-year measure that would tend to the needs of roads and bridges across the country, and also will feature things like a next-generation wireless network and a plan to modernize air traffic control. An hour-long meeting was held that included Trump and 20 officials, and there was word another gathering would take place before the delayed State of the Union address.

However, the White House appears to be stubbing its toe on the same issue. It’s like that hated bed post that announces its presence in the middle of the dark night. So how will we pay for it? The Trump administration proposed a plan last year to use $200 billion in federal funds to try and stimulate $1.5 trillion in infrastructure spending over 10 years. The proposal had a catch, which was pointed out in one of my past columns—projected infrastructure spending would be cut from the federal budget, and more of a financial burden would be placed on those at the local, city and state levels. The plan hit a wall and was never brought up for a vote, and there was no word as to how much the most recent proposal resembled the one that took a faceplant.

At press time many were pushing President Trump to make mention of infrastructure investment during the State of the Union address. My guess is this was done, which is a good sign and is certainly needed during ongoing turmoil between Democrats (who now control the House of Representatives) and Republicans.

But while everyone is looking at the president to inflate more air into this infrastructure milestone, my eyes are checking out Senate leader Mitch McConnell. You see, McConnell has established a very troubling pattern of behavior during the shutdown. He has refused to bring any House bill regarding homeland security to a vote if it does not include a way to fund a wall. Instead of trying to work a compromise, McConnell has tried to be the obedient child of Trump, which if you really dig into the writings of our forefathers is unconstitutional.

My fear here is President Trump, and his Congressional offspring (I’m looking at you, McConnell), will throw out a federal funding number close to around $200 billion and put up that famous wall. When the Democrats counter with a measure asking for more money, will Trump once again put McConnell in his arms and both will yell no? Highway funding is supposed to be a bipartisan issue. It is supposed to be an olive branch, and right now Washington is in desperate need of a victory. Have the climbing rope ready. I just hope there is plenty of slack.

About The Author: Wilson is editorial director of Roads & Bridges.