WASHINGTON ― President Donald Trump on Tuesday called on Congress to approve $1 trillion in infrastructure investment to create “a new program of national rebuilding.”
“America has spent approximately $6 trillion in the Middle East, all this while our infrastructure at home is crumbling,” Trump said in a speech before a joint session of Congress. “With this $6 trillion we could have rebuilt our country ― twice. And maybe even three times if we had people who had the ability to negotiate.”
The president offered little specifics about his plan to upgrade America’s crumbling roads, bridges and waterways, but said it should be paid for by private and public dollars.
“This effort will be guided by two core principles: Buy American, and hire American,” he added.
Trump’s proposal, which he initially unveiled during the campaign, was met by applause from Republicans in the chamber. The proposal also caught the ears of some Democrats who were seated in the audience.
Most GOP lawmakers, however, have had little appetite for such spending in the past. President Barack Obama’s plan for a national infrastructure bank, which would have leveraged private investment to fund new construction projects, for example, was stonewalled by congressional GOP leaders for years.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has also warned against trying to pass a “trillion-dollar stimulus” like the one Trump has proposed. “It will be interesting to see how this is put together,” he said after Trump’s election victory last year.
Over the weekend, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who is McConnell’s wife, acknowledged the difficulties of finding new ways to finance such a large infrastructure package.
“The pay-fors are going to be very difficult,” she said during a meeting Sunday with the nation’s governors in Washington.
Chao suggested that public-private partnerships offered one source of funding infrastructure projects but warned they are “not the answer for everything.”