The first full week in June, according to Donald Trump’s White House, was “Infrastructure Week”: a public-relations period in which the president and his team would tout their support for improving the nation’s infrastructure, which polls show would be a popular idea.
Trump World did not, however, have much to offer. Administration officials conceded that a formal infrastructure plan, to be submitted to Congress, was still months away. The president did, however, host a big White House event, featuring a fake signing ceremony, in honor of Trump’s one idea: privatizing the nation’s air-traffic control system.
As regular readers may recall, the presidential event had all the trappings of a major bill-signing ceremony – Trump even surrounded himself with Republican members of Congress, who were only too pleased to accept ceremonial pens – except the president didn’t sign any legislation or executive orders. Rather, he put his signature on a glorified press release the White House labeled a “decision memo,” which is a term Team Trump apparently made up.
Making matters quite a bit worse, the president’s only meaningful infrastructure idea – the one thing he asked the Republican-led Congress to approve as part of the White House’s infrastructure agenda – has been scrapped. The Wall Street Journal reported last night:
A Senate panel approved a Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill without any provision calling for air-traffic control privatization, seemingly ending prospects for congressional passage of the proposal this year.
The measure approved Thursday by the Senate Commerce Committee indefinitely postpones consideration of stripping authority from the FAA over controllers and air-traffic modernization efforts, a change supported by House Republicans and the White House.
This probably won’t generate a lot of national attention, but it’s quite an embarrassing development for the White House. It was literally earlier this month that the president made a big fuss about Congress approving his one and only infrastructure idea.
And three weeks later, on a bipartisan basis, senators said, “Um, no.”
Circling back to our previous coverage, yesterday’s developments didn’t come as too big of a surprise. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), who chairs the relevant Senate committee, specifically warned the White House that the privatization idea was unlikely to go anywhere. Perhaps Trump thought by throwing his weight behind the proposal, it’d create some momentum for the presidential priority.
It didn’t. The president’s political capital doesn’t really exist in any meaningful sense.
As for the rest of the White House’s infrastructure agenda, the president vowed to unveil his plan in May, but his aides have conceded it’ll be a while before anyone sees any details. We do, however, have a sense of what the Trump administration has in mind: the president’s vision involves “sharply curtailing the federal government’s funding of the nation’s infrastructure and calling upon states, cities and corporations to shoulder most of the cost of rebuilding roads, bridges, railways and waterways.”
As a candidate, Trump voiced support for a $1 trillion infrastructure overhaul, and criticized Hillary Clinton’s plan for not spending nearly enough money on this national priority. The White House has now signaled that the $1 trillion plan will never exist, and Team Trump actually intends to scale back federal efforts to improve the nation’s infrastructure.
Indeed, the Trump administration’s recently unveiled federal budget plan eyes cuts to infrastructure spending, which is the opposite of what the Republican president vowed to do if elected.
Congressional Democrats, who saw this as one of the key issues on which there could be bipartisan cooperation, are now effectively giving up, recognizing that everything Trump said he believed about infrastructure was, for all intents and purposes, a lie.