Wyoming Politicians Consider Infrastructure Plan

Jun 16, 2017

Credit Public Domain

President Trump desperately wants a major legislative victory, which is why he held a Rose Garden ceremony with House Republicans after only their chamber passed an overhaul of Obamacare – a bill he later told Republican senators was “mean.”

But Trump and his agenda remain bogged down by the Russian investigation and he keeps distracting Congress with tweets that Republican leaders have tried to get him to stop sending out. Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney says Trump needs to rise above.

“I’ve seen this through several administrations, and it is always a challenge in Washington. It’s a place where often, the stuff that is most exciting to the media isn’t the actual hard work of the policy changes that have got to be made.”

 The President’s latest proposal is a $3-trillion infrastructure bill. Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney says she likes the concept and says it’s time to focus on improving the country. 

“I think that our task as members of Congress is to just keep our eye on the ball, in terms of the change that’s needed for the people, the country and for the people of Wyoming. And not let sort-of the background noise and the media coverage of a lot of the scandal, so-called scandal, take over.”

As for the details of the president’s plan? Cheney says she can’t support something that is void of details.

“Well, we’ll see. We haven’t seen a proposal yet, and so it’ll depend on what’s in the proposal. It will depend on how the funding is set up, so you know it’s impossible to say ‘Yes this will pass,’ or ‘No it won’t’ until we actually see what the bill will look like.”

Cheney wants coastal states to pony up more money than rural states because she says trucks traveling from the southwest or California use Wyoming highways.

“But certainly if you look at something like I-80, I think the wear and tear in Wyoming is certainly not just from Wyoming folks, Wyoming vehicles. So we oughta' make sure that we’re finding ways that we don’t have to bear the brunt of that.”

On the other side of the aisle, Democrats have produced infrastructure plans that have flesh on the bones. Senate Democrats released a proposal early in this Congress and more recently progressives dropped their own $2-trillion infrastructure plan. Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison, a Vice Chair of the DNC, says Trump’s recently released budget reveals he’s abandoned his base when it comes to his promise to create jobs and support rural America.

“The President’s budget just represents a complete abandonment of working America. It’s a turning of his back on them and you know he went to them and sold them jobs, infrastructure, and fair trade. And what he’s given them is a literal devastation of a social safety net program.”

Republicans see it much differently, but when it comes to infrastructure major hurdles remain for the GOP. Still, Wyoming junior Senator John Barrasso remains optimistic and he chairs the Senate’s transportation and infrastructure committee, so he’s got a seat at the head table.

“We’re working with the White House on this. I’m working with the Democrats, continuing to work with them. It’s a bipartisan effort. The president is focused on that as well. So we need to get this done, it’s an important part of the components that the country needs. There are roads, bridges, dams all over the country that need work.”

One of the biggest hurdles facing the GOP is how to pay for a $1-trillion infrastructure plan. The president wants a public-private partnership to pay for it, but rural lawmakers say that won’t work out west. Barrasso says that’s a concern.

“You need to do basically a menu of different options to pay for different parts of it. These private-public partnerships work very well in big cities and in the Rocky Mountain West, even you look at I-470 around Denver. I mean that works well, because you still have a bigger population. But in Wyoming, that’s not gonna work well.”

Barrasso has allies in his effort to derail the public-private partnership proposal to pay for the bulk of a new infrastructure plan because there are many rural lawmakers on his powerful committee.

“There’s all this money overseas. Trillions of dollars that I want to get… using repatriation, bring that money back that can then be used for infrastructure projects. I think we ought to be eliminating some unnecessary programs, use some of that money for rural America. A position that I believe our committee is going to have based on the makeup of the committee. It’s funding with government involvement.”

The president is still pushing the Senate to pass a health care overhaul as soon as possible, and he wants a massive tax reform package passed, which is why critics are starting to doubt he can also get a huge infrastructure package through this Congress. Wyoming lawmakers remain optimistic, though they’re still waiting on those pesky little details.