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Published: Wednesday, June 07, 2017 @ 6:00 AM
Updated: Thursday, June 08, 2017 @ 4:58 PM
Cincinnati — President Donald Trump on Tuesday outlined a plan to upgrade the nation’s roads, bridge, railways, dams and other infrastructure that would shift the largest portion of the cost to states, local governments and the private sector.
“At least $200 billion of the $1 trillion plan will come from direct federal investment,” Trump said in front of about 500 people at Rivertowne Marina along the Ohio River in Cincinnati. “Working with states, local government and private industry we will insure that these new federal funds are matched by significant additional dollars for maximum efficient and accountability.”
>>PHOTO GALLERY: The president visits Ohio
It is not clear where states like Ohio and many local governments would get the money to pay larger portions of the cost for infrastructure repair and construction. Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor was in the audience and said Canada has had success with public-private partnerships. Even so, she said she would need to see more details of Trump’s plan.
“We do have to look at ways to fund it. The gasoline tax is not keeping up,” said Taylor, a Republican running for governor in 2018.
Kevin W. Burch, president of Jet Express Inc. and chairman of the American Trucking Association, said the nation’s highways must be improved for the sake of commerce. He said $200 billion in federal funding is a starting point, but not enough. He advocates increasing the federal gasoline tax for the first time since 1993.
“The problem that we have is our government officials do not want any increase in taxes,” Burch said.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce issued a statement after the speech applauding Trump for focusing on rebuilding infrastructure.
“The Chamber and the business community look forward to engaging with the White House and with Congress to develop and implement a long-term plan that will bring our nation’s infrastructure up to speed and spur economic growth. Now is the time to take action and to get the job done,” said Executive Director for Transportation Infrastructure Ed Mortimer.
Trump’s speech came after he landed at Cincinnati Lunken Airport and spoke to two families there about the impact of the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, which he opposes and wants to repeal and replace.
Raya Mafazy Whalen, who with her husband Michael own Troy-based playground equipment company, PlayCare, said she told Trump about how she had to change doctors when she was pregnant because the OB-GYN she wanted to go to wasn’t covered under the insurance she had through the ACA. She said her husband had offered an insurance plan to employees but canceled it because it didn’t offer required coverage. As a result some employees left, she said.
“(Trump) was incredibly kind and warm,” said Whalen, who headed Women for Trump Montgomery County and founded Young Republican Women of Dayton.
At the marina, Trump noted that Anthem had on Monday announced it was pulling out of the ACA marketplace in Ohio. The company said it was because of the uncertainty about what the federal government was doing with health insurance and a decline in the individual market.
“Bye bye,” said Trump. “What a mess.”
Trump called Democrats “obstructionists” who won’t help with the repeal and replacement of the ACA.
“That’s why they lost the House, they lost the Senate, the White House,” Trump said.
The Democratic National Committee responded by saying Republicans had sabotaged the ACA and were to blame for 70,000 Ohioans losing insurance through Anthem.
“Republicans should abandon their spiteful, one-party health care repeal crusade and instead work with Democrats to make Obamacare work better,” said Erick Walker, DNC spokesman.
Terrence Clark, spokesman for the progressive Center for American Progress Action Fund, said states are already facing big increased costs if Trump’s proposed budget is approved.
“While Trump is coming in to sell Ohioans and all Americans a bill of goods with his trillion-dollar infrastructure package, he’s skirting the fact that his budget directly undercuts millions of Americans – especially those in more rural areas - relying on other programs that will be cut, such as Medicaid and Social Security benefits,” Clark said.
Much of Trump’s speech was spent talking about what he said was the terrible state of American roads and bridges and touting progress he said he’s made cutting regulations.
“People are so impressed we have cut so many regulations,” Trump said, adding that his plan for infrastructure includes more cuts in regulations and speeding up the time it takes to get construction projects done.
He said the U.S. spends trillions of dollars overseas, including helping fight wars in the Middle East, but “we don’t ever seem to have the money ” to fix roads and bridges.
“It’s time finally to put America first and that’s what I’ve been doing if you hadn’t noticed,” Trump said.
He compared the initiative Americans showed by building the Panama Canal, the interstate highway system and the Golden Gate Bridge with what he said was a lack of will today.
“We don’t do that anymore. We don’t even fix the old highways anymore,” Trump said.
Trump also talked about problems with the nation’s 12,000-mile inland waterway system.
“These critical corridors depend on a dilapidated system of locks and dams that is more than half-a-century old, and their condition continues to decay,” he said. “Capital improvements of this system have been massively underfunded - and there is an $8.7 billion maintenance backlog that is only getting worse.”
The waterways are important to transportation and have “relied primarily on federal funding,” according to an infrastructure information sheet released by the White House. The document blames deferred maintenance and insufficient revenue to operate the current system and the 24 projects costing $7 billion that are authorized but not yet paid for.
It says the $8.7 billion cost of improving the inland waterways “could be financed through a modest fee on the beneficiaries of the system.”
Trump spoke with the Ohio River as his backdrop and with barges of what he said was West Virginia coal docked on the Kentucky shoreline. A large American flag was draped over the barge tugboat before he spoke. Trump said a new coal mine is opening next week and he also has a plan to stop the dumping of cheap foreign steel in the U.S.
“The steel folks are going to be very happy,” said Trump.
Trump said his plans will bring prosperity
“We too will see jobs and wealth flood into the heartland and see new products and new produce made and grown right here in the U.S.A. And you don’t hear that much anymore,” said Trump. “We will buy American and we will hire American.”
He said he is not content to let the country “become a museum of former glories.”
“We will construct incredible new monuments to American grit that inspire wonder for generations and generations to come,” Trump said. “We will build because that is how we make America great again.”Tweets by @LynnHulseyDDN
Published: Sunday, June 24, 2018 @ 8:52 PM
As Republicans struggled again to gather a majority in the House this week for an immigration reform bill, President Donald Trump on Sunday seemed to hint that the effort might be a waste of time, blaming Democrats for their opposition to GOP plans, and demanding major changes in how the U.S. legal system deals with those illegally entering the United States.
“When somebody comes in, we must immediately, with no Judges or Court Cases, bring them back from where they came,” the President tweeted on Sunday, making the argument that illegal immigrants deserve no legal standing in court, no due process after being detained.
But the U.S. Supreme Court has held the opposite, ruling in a 1982 case that “illegal aliens…may claim the benefit of the Equal Protection Clause, which provides that no State shall ‘deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.'”
“Summarily removing individuals with no opportunity for a hearing, even if they might have viable legal objections to their removal, would likely violate due process,” said Steve Vladeck, a professor at the University of Texas Law School.
That idea was one of a number of tweets this weekend on immigration from the President:
Mr. Trump’s comments came as House Republicans were still preparing a vote this week on a backup immigration reform bill – but no date for the vote had been set, as GOP leaders have struggled to corral a majority on the issue.
In Congress, Mr. Trump’s idea to deny due process rights to illegal aliens landed with a big thud in both parties.
“Removing due process from immigration cases is yet another example of Trump’s extreme immigration policy and disregard for the rule of law,” said Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ).
“No person shall be…deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law,” tweeted Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), quoting the text of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution.
“Due process is a bedrock American legal principle,” said Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY).
Democrats spent much of the weekend trying to focus more attention on the effort to reunite children of illegal immigrant families, who were separated from their parents under a Trump Administration effort to deter illegal immigrants from trying to cross the U.S. southern border.
But others on Capitol Hill saw the current immigration debate in much a different light.
“America is heading in the direction of another Harpers Ferry,” said Rep. Steve King (R-IA), a strong backer of the President’s calls for tough action on illegal immigration, referring to John Brown’s raid in 1859, in a bid to start a slave revolt.
“After that comes Ft. Sumter,” King said in a tweet, referring to the first shots of the Civil War.
Published: Saturday, June 23, 2018 @ 5:15 AM
As President Donald Trump this week threatened $200 billion in new tariffs on Chinese imports, and then warned Europe that he would slap a 20 percent tariff on imported automobiles, members of both parties Congress accused the administration of starting a trade war which could cause collateral economic damage across the United States.
The differences were on display at a hearing Wednesday with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who took a bipartisan tongue lashing on a recent round of tariffs levied on imported steel and aluminum from Canada, Mexico and Europe.
“We’re picking winners and losers,” argued Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), who said those tariffs were already hurting businesses in his home state.
“Probably resulting – in my view – in far more jobs being lost than being gained,” Toomey told Ross, citing a very well-known Pennsylvania company that could find it less expensive to move jobs from the U.S. to Canada.
Almost every Senator on the panel had a story of a small business that was feeling the pinch due to Trump Administration tariffs, impacting all sorts of agricultural products, as well as manufacturing, big and small.
“Do you think we’re in a trade war right now?” asked Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA). “Because I do,” as Cantwell rattled off farm products that were losing markets because of retaliatory tariff measures.
Ross downplayed the cost of higher imported steel and aluminum, basically making the case that economic hardships were being overplayed.
“It’s a fraction of a penny on a can of Campbell’s soup, it’s a fraction on a can of Budweiser, it’s a fraction on a can of Coke,” Ross said.
That did not please the Senator from the state of Coca-Cola.
“Although a couple of pennies on a can is not much, a couple pennies times a billion is lots,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA).
“We’re hit harder than any other state by the Canadian retaliatory tariffs,” said Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), warning the Trump Administration against tariffs on imported automobiles, as GOP Senators labeled such actions a tax on consumers.
“Steel prices are going up – not just for foreign steel subject to tariffs, but also for U.S. steel,” complained Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT).
“Mexico’s buying their wheat from Argentina and their corn from Brazil,” said Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), as he told Ross that Kansas wheat exports were encountering troubles because of new retaliatory tariffs on U.S. exports, bringing bad economic news on the farm report.
Ross simply told Senators if other countries put new tariffs on U.S. exports, that was out of his control.
“We have no control over what another country does in retaliation,” Ross said.
The bipartisan complaints clearly had no impact, as by Friday, President Trump was on Twitter, issuing new threats against European auto imports.
As Democrats registered their opposition, they also couldn’t help but note the oddity of a Republican President going against what’s been a bedrock belief of the GOP.
“I feel like I’ve gone down a rabbit hole,” said Sen. Clare McCaskill (D-MO), who said she found it hard to believe the party of free trade now had a President in office who was doing the exact opposite.
“In a chaotic and frankly incompetent manner, you’re picking winners and losers,” McCaskill told Ross.
But for the President, this is about re-setting trade deals, which he says were tilted against the United States.
“As far as trade is concerned with other countries, we want fair and reciprocal trade, we don’t want stupid trade like we had for so long,” the President said at a rally in Minnesota.
“Remember the world reciprocal,” Mr. Trump said. “We have been ripped off by almost every country on Earth, our friends and our enemies.”
“But those days are over,” the President said to cheers from the crowd.
But while they’re cheering Mr. Trump on the stump, at the U.S. Capitol, they’re worried about a trade war.
“We’re getting into a war that’s going to cost lots of billions of dollars,” Isakson warned.
Published: Friday, June 22, 2018 @ 1:25 PM
In a fresh reminder that political cooperation is not dead on Capitol Hill, the House on Friday overwhelmingly approved a sweeping package of over fifty bipartisan bills to address the misuse of prescription opioid pain medicine, as lawmakers voted to expand a variety of services under Medicare and Medicaid to deal with the drug scourge.
“We can do things when we put partisan politics aside and work together,” said Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), one of a number of lawmakers who touted various provisions in the sweeping opioids measure.
“This particular bill, H.R. 6, is the crown jewel of all that legislation,” said Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX).
“This legislation will strengthen our efforts to advance treatment and recovery issues, and bolster the fight against deadly and illicit drugs,” said Rep. Rick Allen (R-GA).
“This is a big deal in the fight against the largest public health crisis in our country,” said Speaker Paul Ryan.
“Mr. Speaker, so often we hear about the partisan wrangling in Congress and clearly there are dividing lines on some high-profile issues,” said Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA). “But this an issue where Republicans and Democrats have come together.”
The final vote was 396-14. The bill now goes to the Senate.
“Currently, Medicare doesn’t cover opioid treatment programs,” said Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA). “These bills are pieces of a large, complex puzzle. We need to find realistic solutions with long term outcomes.”
Published: Friday, June 22, 2018 @ 7:29 AM
A day after Republicans in the House defeated one more conservative immigration reform plan, and delayed action until next week on a second bill because of a lack of GOP votes, President Donald Trump on Friday suggested a different avenue entirely – urging Republicans in Congress to drop the issue until after the November elections.
“Republicans should stop wasting their time on Immigration until after we elect more Senators and Congressmen/women in November,” the President tweeted early on Friday morning, saying the answer was simple – get more GOP lawmakers in the 2018 mid-term elections.
“Elect more Republicans in November and we will pass the finest, fairest and most comprehensive Immigration Bills anywhere in the world,” Mr. Trump pledged, as he blamed Democrats and the Senate rules, which would force him to get 60 votes to do what he wants on immigration.
Mr. Trump’s suggestion came as GOP leaders were still looking for a magic legislative formula on immigration reform, as the issue has divided Republicans in both the House and Senate.
The suggestion by the President that immigration efforts are a waste of time came as Republicans were trying to fine tune a second immigration bill in the House, with hopes of approving that next week, before lawmakers go home for a July Fourth break.
Many GOP lawmakers had been hoping that the President instead would come out very publicly in favor of those efforts, and help convince some reluctant House Republicans to get on board, and vote for the plan, despite misgivings about certain provisions.