Republicans, Democrats bicker over infrastructure plans

Source: by Richard Cowan and David Morgan, Reuters • Posted: Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Republicans and Democrats argued over the best way to rebuild U.S. infrastructure – a high priority of President Donald Trump – with no agreement in sight following skirmishes on Tuesday between the two parties.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rejected a new, detailed $1 trillion proposal unveiled by Democrats that would rely heavily on new government spending. That came shortly after Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said his party could not accept the tax credit mechanism Trump has proposed to fuel the rebuilding of roads, bridges, sewers, airports and other public works.

Schumer vowed to oppose any plan by Trump that would rely on “tax credits for developers” to spur rebuilding U.S. infrastructure.

Trump earlier on Tuesday signed an executive action to expedite environmental approvals for high-priority infrastructure projects. That prompted Schumer to warn that Democrats would work to include environmental protections in any infrastructure measure that moves through the Republican-controlled Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promptly lambasted the Democrats’ proposal.

“I don’t think we ought to borrow almost $1 trillion and plus-up a bunch of federal accounts, incur a lot of additional debt and don’t build any projects to speak of,” McConnell said, comparing the plan to President Barack Obama’s 2009 economic stimulus legislation that Republicans opposed.

Democrats argue that an investment plan relying on developer tax credits would fail to generate enough construction and would result in the creation of too many toll roads to finance costs over the long term.

Instead, Senate Democrats are seeking heavy investments by the government, including $210 billion to rebuild roads and bridges, $110 billion for water and sewage projects, $180 billion for rail and bus systems and $75 billion to rebuild schools.

McConnell’s support would be essential to any infrastructure measure succeeding in Congress.

Trump campaigned throughout last year on a promise to pursue a $1 trillion infrastructure program, which would come at a time when major public works projects are crumbling. The economy, however, also faces a shortage of the skilled workers needed to build roads, bridges, airports and other facilities.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan and David Morgan; Editing by Paul Simao and Andrew Hay)