- The Washington Times - Friday, January 20, 2017

Moments after he was sworn in as the nation’s 45th commander in chief, President Donald Trump said he’ll get Americans “off of welfare and back to work rebuilding our country,” vowing to make massive investments in new roads, bridges, airports and other key pieces of infrastructure.

Mr. Trump didn’t offer specifics in his 17-minute inaugural address, but in the past he’s spoken of a $1 trillion infrastructure investment plan, one of the few areas he’s likely to find real common ground with at least some congressional Democrats. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, for example, has expressed support for such a plan.

The new president cast infrastructure spending as part of his broader plan to put “America first.”

“We will bring back our jobs, we will bring back our borders, we will bring back our wealth, and we will bring back our dreams,” Mr. Trump said. “We will build new roads and highways and bridges and airports and tunnels and railways all across our wonderful nation. We will get our people off of welfare and back to work rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor.”

“We will follow two simple rules,” he continued. “Buy American and hire American.”

The nation’s crumbling infrastructure — along with shuttered factories and outsourced jobs — was a central theme of Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign, and he used the notion of rebuilding the country as a key piece of his “Make America Great Again” mantra.

Infrastructure spending also was an area that broke traditional stereotypes between the two parties, with Mr. Trump saying he would spend much more money than his opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton. Mrs. Clinton offered a $275 billion infrastructure plan in her campaign platform; Mr. Trump said he’d spend “at least double” that amount.

In recent weeks, the Trump transition team has suggested that a major infrastructure package will be at the top of the new president’s agenda, and a specific proposal could be put forward within the first 100 days of the administration, or certainly within the first six months.

Earlier this week, Elaine Chao, Mr. Trump’s pick to head the Transportation Department, told lawmakers that one of her first tasks will be to establish an “infrastructure task force.” She also said the White House will be open to both direct federal spending on infrastructure and public-private partnerships.

While some Republicans may balk at a $1 trillion price tag for federal spending on infrastructure, Mr. Trump is likely to find partners on the other side of the aisle. Prominent progressive Democrats have cited infrastructure as one area where they believe they can work with the new president.

“He’s mentioned $1 trillion. I told him that sounded good to me,” Mr. Schumer told ABC News last month, recounting a conversation with Mr. Trump.

“We’re not going to oppose something simply because it has the name ‘Trump’ on it,” the senate minority leader continued. “But we will certainly not sacrifice our principles just to get something done.”

• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at bwolfgang@washingtontimes.com.

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