Speaker Paul Ryan warned New York and New Jersey Republicans that he won’t allow funds for the Gateway project to be included in a massive spending package if it will cause President Donald Trump to veto the bill, according to GOP lawmakers.
Rep. Peter King (N.Y.), one of a group of Republicans who met with the speaker on Wednesday to lobby for Gateway money, said Ryan described Trump as totally opposed to helping fund the $30 billion infrastructure project.
“That’s the only issue that he’s really talking about,” Ryan said of Trump’s opposition to Gateway, according to King. Trump has brought it up on four different occasions, King added.
Ryan warned the GOP group that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) didn’t want Gateway funds in the omnibus package either. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has pushed hard for Gateway money, seeing it as key to bolstering New York City’s flagging infrastructure.
Ryan told the rank-and-file members to work out a deal with Trump themselves. King will spend some time with Trump on Thursday at a St. Patrick’s Day celebration.
“[Ryan] said if we can find a way to do it that the president will accept, he has no opposition to it at all,” King added. “But he doesn’t want to pass a bill that the president is going to veto.”
King said that he will vote against the omnibus if it fails to include any Gateway funds. Lawmakers are expected to take up the $1 trillion-plus package next week, before the March 23 government funding deadline.
Other attendees at the meeting with Ryan included GOP Reps. Leonard Lance (N.J.), Christopher Smith (N.J.), Daniel Donovan (N.Y.), Claudia Tenney (N.Y.), Frank LoBiondo (N.J.), John Faso (N.Y.), Tom MacArthur (N.J.), and Lee Zeldin (N.Y.).
"We explained to the speaker our very strong position that we favor its inclusion in the appropriations bill,” Lance said. “I do not believe there is any problem with Speaker Ryan. ... We expressed our strongest opinion that this is of national significance."
The Gateway program costs an estimated $30 billion, with the long-sought tunnel project alone tallying $13 billion. Under an agreement worked out by the Obama administration, New York and New Jersey would pay half the cost, with the federal government picking up the rest.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) has been pushing hard for the project in the omnibus package. Freylinghuysen is retiring at the end of this Congress, and he is using his influence to push through an initial down payment on the program.
But Trump has balked at the cost, suggesting New York and New Jersey haven’t agreed to pay enough of the overall tab and threatened to veto the omnibus bill if the House included Gateway funds in there.
Trump administration officials and conservative Republicans are also upset that Frelinghuysen voted against the tax cut bill — Trump’s biggest legislative achievement — and initially balked at repealing Obamacare.