Could Trump-Dem Infrastructure Deal Mean More Money for High-Speed Rail?

Ever since Democrats won control of the U.S. House of Representatives, many have speculated whether President Trump and Democrats be able to make a deal on something big.

With Democrats saying that they aren’t afraid to use their newfound-subpoena powers against the Trump Administration, the prospects for a bipartisan deal on anything seem slim.

But some argue Democrats could deal with Trump on infrastructure spending, and they’re not wrong.  Infrastructure could be just the “sweet spot” where the two divergent camps could find common ground and make a win-win deal.

I will stereotype here, but it’s not a heavy lift to get a Democrat to agree to spend more.  No one loves cutting a ribbon on a big project than your run-of-the-mill Democrat Member of Congress.

Trump, the builder, likes to build too, and would probably go along with additional spending for roads, bridges, and highways.  The president’s chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow recently told CNBC that the Trump administration is considering a multi-faceted infrastructure package – specifically discussing infrastructure improvements that would benefit the shipping industry and energy exports.

When thinking about a potential infrastructure deal, an audacious question popped in my mind – might a deal include more federal money for California’s beleaguered “high-speed rail” project?  It’s not as crazy a notion as you might think.

High-speed rail hasn’t received federal dollars since the Obama-era 2009 stimulus package, when California received $2.55 billion in federal funds.

When Republicans won Congress in 2010, California’s Republican congressional leaders made sure that funding for the “Little Engine That Could” (my former boss Connie Conway’s apt nickname for high-speed rail) was blocked at every turn.

The project has been woefully underfunded since, there’s no sign of any of the promised private investment, and we just learned that construction costs will likely go up by another $11 billion for the Southern California leg of the bullet train.

With Democrats in charge of the House and California’s Nancy Pelosi likely back in the Speaker’s chair, there will surely be a push for federal dollars for a project that’s important for Democrats in her state – notwithstanding another scathing state audit by California’s nonpartisan state auditor.

With a divided government, both Speaker Pelosi and President Trump will have to go along with some things they won’t like if they are going to reach agreement on an overall deal that will pass both houses of Congress and be signed into law.  For Trump, that might include having to swallow funding for high-speed rail in California.

It will all come down to how much Trump actually wants to make a deal.  If he feels he needs a deal to bolster his 2020 re-election prospects, he may have to go along with something once considered unthinkable – sending more money from Washington for California’s train to nowhere.

Tim Anaya is the Pacific Research Institute’s communications director.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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