Chao to Senate: Trump infrastructure 'principles' coming soon

Elaine Chao arrives at Trump Tower on November 21, 2016 in New York.

Story highlights

  • During his presidential campaign, Trump promised to quickly pass his massive infrastructure program
  • The crux of the issue will be how to pay for infrastructure

Washington (CNN)Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao told senators on Wednesday that they should expect to see the "principles" of President Donald Trump's long anticipated $1 trillion infrastructure plan by the end of the month.

"The proposal will likely include $200 billion in direct federal funds which will be used to leverage $1 trillion in infrastructure investment over the next 10 years," Chao told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, one of many segments of the federal government that would be involved in putting together and implementing Trump's infrastructure proposal.
    Chao said that 16 federal agencies and departments are working on the President's infrastructure task force right now.
    During his presidential campaign, Trump promised to pass his massive infrastructure program in his first 100 days in office.
    But the process has been continually delayed, as Trump and congressional Republicans have struggled to push through other top priories such as health care and tax reform.
    "Obviously, the President is very impatient," Chao told the committee. "He has asked that principles be released around the later part of May, so the principles for the infrastructure project should be coming out shortly."
    After the principles are released, Chao said Trump hopes to see a legislative package in the third quarter of the year, which would give Congress until the end of September.
    Given how the other big-ticket items on Trump's agenda have fared in Congress so far, it remains unclear how realistic of a timeframe this is.
    The largely amicable hearing -- the importance of improving America's infrastructure is one of the few issues that Republicans and Democrats still agree on -- exposed some potential fissures between the administration and Senate Republicans who otherwise support much of Trump's agenda.
    The crux of the issue will be how to pay for infrastructure. Trump and his administration have been pushing for Public Private Partnerships (P3s) to fund massive infrastructure projects.
    The problem is that P3s are not necessarily viable for the most rural parts of the country, since these projects have no chance of being profitable for the private investment firms looking to pump money into infrastructure.
    These parts of the country voted heavily for Trump in 2016.
    Throughout the hearing, Chao repeatedly assured Republican senators -- including committee Chairman John Barrasso of Wyoming, James Inhofe of Oklahoma and Joni Ernst of Iowa -- that the needs of rural Americans will be taken into account in the proposal, and acknowledged that "not every project ... is a candidate for private investment."
    Chao also emphasized that the proposal will take a "holistic" approach to infrastructure, including not just transportation infrastructure such as roads, bridges and railways, but also encompassing "energy, water, possibly broadband (and) veterans' hospitals."