Washington Waves
Washington Waves

Leaders Discuss $2 Trillion Infrastructure Package

Washington, D.C.—A closely watched meeting with President Trump and Democratic congressional leaders on infrastructure produced one big takeaway: $2 trillion.

That’s the number House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) attached to the “big and bold” initiative they had sought from the session at the White House, which did not cite the $2 trillion figure in its statement.

The other key question on how such a massive package would be financed still remains unknown.

Both sides agreed to meet again in three weeks to discuss funding and other details.

In a pre-meeting letter, Pelosi and Schumer laid down several markers on “new and real revenue” and “clean energy and resiliency” priorities that address climate change.

While not at the meeting, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) laid down one of his own by dismissing as a non-starter any talk of going back to the 2017 tax cuts to help finance such a package.

Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney hit a less than optimistic note during an appearance that same day on the West Coast.

Mulvaney suggested the infrastructure talks could break down over the administration efforts to deregulate and speed up projects.

Jones Act Commitment

After meeting with President Donald Trump, Louisiana’s two Republican U.S. senators expressed confidence the Jones Act will not be waived.

Sen. Bill Cassidy said that commitment was secured from the president.

“We cannot let the United States become dependent on foreign countries to transport energy and critical products within the United States,” Cassidy said in a written statement. “The Jones Act is essential to preserve our domestic shipping industry and protect our national and economic security. I thank President Trump for meeting and his support for Louisiana shipbuilders and maritime workers.”

In a separate statement, Sen. John Kennedy said he is confident the president realizes how important the Jones Act is to Louisiana’s maritime industry and that “no changes will be made.”

“I made the case that the livelihood of Louisiana families is at stake.  Louisiana is the greatest beneficiary of the Jones Act with thousands of jobs that depend on it,” Kennedy said.

“It would be foolish to push aside those jobs in favor of foreign-made and foreign-crewed ships.”

Republican members of Congress requested the meeting, which followed reports of a debate within the administration over whether to waive the Jones Act for the movement of liquefied natural gas as sought by Puerto Rico.

Others in the meeting: Republican Sens. Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.).

Several key members of the administration also attended, including Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Director of the National Economic Council and Special Assistant to the President Larry Kudlow and Peter Navarro, assistant to the president for trade and manufacturing policy.

Harbor Maintenance Fund

A bipartisan group of House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee leaders introduced a bill to make it easier for Congress to spend all funds collected in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund on fixing the nation’s ports and harbors.

They said H.R. 2396, the Full Utilization of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund Act, would unlock the approximately $9.3 billion now sitting idle and not being used for the intended purpose while ports and harbors of all sizes struggle to remain competitive.

Over the next decade, they said, the bill would allow roughly $34 billion to be spent out of the fund and enable the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dredge all federal harbors to their constructed widths and depths.

It was assigned to the committee, which is chaired by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), the main sponsor of the legislation, and the House Budget Committee.

Documenting Citizenship

The Maritime Administration (MarAd) is seeking public comment on simplifying and modernizing the process on documenting U.S. citizenship of corporations and other entities participating directly or indirectly in the agency’s programs and the annual citizenship filing procedures under the American Fisheries Act Program.

MarAd explained it is not considering changing current citizenship standards, adding its effort will be focused on the types of documents applicants provide.

Comments must be received by July 1.

For additional information, contact T. Mitchell Hudson Jr., at 202-366-9373.

Water Resources Needs

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has requested non-federal interests to submit proposals for feasibility studies and modifications to authorized water resources development projects or feasibility studies for inclusion in an annual report to Congress on future water resources development.

Proposals must be submitted by August 27.

They can be submitted online at: www.usace.army.mil/Missions/ CivilWorks/ProjectPlanning/ WRRDA7001Proposals.aspx.

Project feasibility reports that have successfully completed executive branch review but have not been authorized will be included in the annual report table and do not need to be submitted in response to this notice.

For additional information, contact Lisa Kiefel at 202-761-0626.