As many readers are probably aware, one of the major campaign promises of President Trump was to repair America’s ailing infrastructure. Roads, bridges, tunnels, dams, power plants and public buildings all are in need of huge amounts of repair and revitalization across the country.
Trump has proposed putting together a $1 trillion package to undertake this work, but it will need to be carefully crafted to win approval from Congress. Here are some of the key players who will be helping Trump to shape the package and get it OK’ed by lawmakers.
- Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao
Elaine Chao will shoulder much of the responsibility for the scope and size of the infrastructure plans and may serve as a liaison between the White House and Congress. As a former Deputy Secretary of Transportation in the George H.W. Bush administration, Chao is highly familiar with infrastructure issues.
Chao also served as a Secretary of Labor for former President George W. Bush and is currently married to Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. She’s well-known for maintaining good political relationships with numerous members of Congress on both sides of the aisle.
Recently, Chao has sent signals that Trump’s infrastructure proposal could be made public as early as late May. “The proposal will cover more than transportation infrastructure,” Chao has said. “It will include energy, water and potentially broadband and veterans’ hospitals as well.”
- National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn
As President Trump’s chief economic advisor, Gary Cohn is in a position to say how the infrastructure proposal will create jobs and boost the nation’s economy. Recently, Cohn sat with Elaine Chao on an infrastructure panel at a White House town hall.
He talked about how public-private partnerships can improve the nation’s transportation systems, including new roads, expanded rail networks and the modernization of air traffic control systems. “Air traffic control is probably the single most exciting thing we can do,” said Cohn.
- Pennsylvania Congressman Bill Shuster
The Republican Congressman is the chairman of the House’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Shuster was also an early campaign supporter of President Trump. Shuster’s committee will be the primary holder of hearings about the proposal and will be the conduit through which House approval for the package will flow.
Shuster has already visited the White House a number of times since Trump’s election, and he agrees strongly with Gary Cohn’s assessment that air traffic control modernization is in the country’s best interest. Trump has taken Shuster’s advice on this matter and has proposed separating air traffic control away from the rest of the federal government in the budget he recently sent to Congress.
But Shuster doesn’t necessarily see eye-to-eye with Trump on all issues. For instance, he disagrees with the administration’s idea to eliminate Essential Air Services (EAS) to remote and rural communities throughout the country. “There are things I don’t agree with [such as] cutting EAS funding for rural airports,” said Shuster. “It’s such a vital link for rural America.”
- Special Assistant to the President D.J. Gribbin
No, he’s not a disk jockey. Donald James “D.J.” Gribbin is a former chief counsel at the Federal Highway Administration as well as a veteran of the Department of Transportation. Gribbin is an expert on all the details necessary for highway construction and reconstruction.
Gribbin describes himself as an “infrastructure guy,” as opposed to a “legislative strategy guy.” At the aforementioned town hall event, President Trump asked Gribbin to come onstage to highlight a giant chart showing all the permits that are required for highway work.
“How many different steps is it?” asked the president. “16 different approvals, 29 different statutes, 5 different executive orders all apply to this process,” answered Gribbin.
- Real Estate Executive Richard LeFrak
New York real estate developers Richard LeFrak of The LeFrak Organization and Steven Roth of Vornado Realty Trust will be heading a council to select and manage transportation projects targeted for funding via Trump’s infrastructure proposal.
Like Trump, LeFrak was a major real estate player in Queens, New York before expanding his empire to other parts of the Tri-state area. And like Trump, LeFrak is a billionaire who has a long history of successful projects in and around New York. Trump has called him “a pro” and says that both he and Roth will be excellent at vetting projects that can start their construction within 90 days.
“One thing Trump said while we were in the [infrastructure] meeting, he said, ‘Don’t bring me any projects that you want federal funding for that you can’t start and haven’t completed the state approval processes for,'” said the developer.
- Senator John Thune
Republican Senator John Thune of South Dakota is the chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. He also plays a big part in the Senate GOP leadership. After the repeal and replacement of Obamacare failed in the House of Representatives, some legislators were saying that Trump’s infrastructure push should start in the Senate, rather than in the House.
If this comes to pass, Thune will be a key go-to player. Like Bill Shuster, above, Thune is keenly interested in making sure rural concerns are addressed in the final proposal.
He and Gary Cohn may end up not seeing eye-to-eye because typically in public-private partnerships, investors are only attached to large-scale projects that are guaranteed to recoup costs. To address these concerns, President Trump has signaled that more direct federal funding may be included in the final proposal.
- White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon
As long as he’s still part of the Trump White House, Chief Strategist Steve Bannon has vowed that he’ll play a big role in boosting the infrastructure proposal. This aligns with his economic nationalism and populist ideals while at the same time going against the grain of conservative tendencies not to spend federal funds.
“The conservatives are going to go crazy,” stated Bannon. “I’m the guy pushing a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan.” But Bannon believes now is a critical opportunity for the country to revitalize, given that interest rates are historically low.
Together, this team of boosters will attempt to shepherd the infrastructure push through Congress and hopefully have it be more successful than the ill-fated American Health Care Act (AHCA) that was rejected by House conservatives.
Hopefully, more Republicans will be on board with these measures so they can be approved without having to corral too many Democrats into the process.
~ American Liberty Report