March 14, 2018

Trump Cabinet Secretaries Struggle to Answer Duckworth’s Straightforward Questions About Infrastructure Plan at Senate Hearing

Cabinet Secretaries’ lack of clarity about poorly-thought-out infrastructure plan suggests it may be nothing more than publicity stunt


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Several Trump cabinet secretaries were unable to answer basic questions today from U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) about the administration’s infrastructure proposal, raising questions about how well-thought-out the Trump infrastructure plan is. At the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hearing, Duckworth asked Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross how the administration intends to fund its meager infrastructure package, which already falls short of our nation’s infrastructure needs, and what types of revenue sources might be used. Chao failed to name a single revenue source, saying only that figuring out how it will be funded is “a very difficult question.” Ross sidestepped the question and focused mostly on what state and local governments could do. Video of their exchange is available here.

“We’ve heard a lot about prioritizing infrastructure investment over the last couple of years, but the President and his allies in Congress have failed to set the stage for any meaningful investments in our aging infrastructure. This has left many folks in my home state wondering if this is even a serious infrastructure plan from the White House,” Duckworth said. “Today’s responses showed this administration has not thought about even basic questions and suggest the Trump infrastructure plan may be more of a publicity stunt than a serious policy proposal.”

Duckworth has been a vocal supporter of an infrastructure bill to upgrade America’s rapidly aging infrastructure. As a member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, she repeatedly urged the Trump administration to announce its long-awaited infrastructure proposal throughout 2017 and she reacted with disappointment when the President finally released his plan in early 2018, citing how it fell far short of what he promised and relied heavily on public-private partnerships and state and local spending, which are not realistic ways to fund much-needed infrastructure investment.

“This infrastructure ‘plan’ falls far short of what Donald Trump promised when he was running for President,” Duckworth said at the time. “It fails to make the necessary investments to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, it would force states to enact new tolls and taxes on middle-class families and leaves rural America behind – all while simultaneously slashing hundreds of billions from existing infrastructure programs like the Highway Trust Fund and grants that our state relies on. Simply put, the President missed a major opportunity to propose a serious bipartisan plan. Illinois deserves better.”

President Trump has proposed spending $200 billion on his infrastructure proposal, but his FY18 budget simultaneously slashed $354 billion in infrastructure programs and his FY19 budget would cut more than $240 billion in infrastructure spending, more than was actually included in his infrastructure proposal. Specifically, the President’s budget would slash funding for the Highway Trust Fund, TIGER Grants, Army Corps of Engineers and Amtrak by tens of billions of dollars, which raise questions about the President’s commitment to infrastructure investments. At the same time, the President has championed the Republican tax plan, which gave massive tax cuts to large corporations and the wealthiest Americans and is projected to increase the deficit by $1.5 trillion.