In an infrastructure briefing by senior administration officials to a bipartisan group of senators, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D- N.Y.) does what she does best and derailed the whole meeting after she said this administration is “killing people” by not prioritizing a multibillion-dollar tunnel project for her home state, reports The Washington Free Beacon.
The briefing, delivered by Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, President Trump’s chief economic adviser Gary Cohn, and top White House aide for infrastructure policy D.J. Gribbin, came at the request of members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which will be responsible for overseeing the long-awaited infrastructure proposal.
The meeting was going great until Gillibrand hijacked the microphone and scolded the officials for “killing people” by not committing to fund the Gateway Tunnel project.
New York and New Jersey have requested $5.5 billion in federal grants and an additional $5.5 billion in federal loans to fund the rail project, but the proposal has been called “entirely unserious” by the administration, reports the Free Beacon.
Chao shot back, however, and said that Gillibrand was the one keeping people unsafe by continuing to block the confirmation of her agency’s top rail safety official Ronald Batory, who Gillibrand and her Democratic colleagues in New York and New Jersey say they will obstruct until the tunnel is funded.
Gillibrand raved on Twitter on Tuesday that the tunnel project is the “single most important” project the country faces now and needs “help from the federal government.”
“I’m very concerned about the Trump administration’s stance on this, and plan to ask Secretary Chao today to explain their position,” Gillibrand wrote just before the briefing.
The senator was one of the just six senators that voted against Chao’s confirmation as transportation secretary and has committed herself, along with other New York and New Jersey senators who will continue to oppose all DOT nominees until the administration funds the tunnel.
But committee leaders on both sides of the aisle claimed the meeting was productive following its conclusion.
“I appreciate the time Secretary Chao and White House officials like Gary Cohn spent with our committee today, and I am hopeful that we will finally see the long-promised infrastructure proposal from the Trump administration sooner rather than later,” Sen. Tom Carper (Del.), the committee’s top Democrat, said in a statement.
Carper added that he left the briefing confident the proposal had “potential to elicit bipartisan support here in Congress.”
Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) said the “meeting gave senators the chance to have a direct back-and-forth with administration leadership on their priorities.”
The administration has told the officials its infrastructure proposal would likely be released shortly after Trump’s State of the Union address at the end of the month.
The White House said last week it welcomes the “continued participation” of New York on the infrastructure plan, but hinted it would not allow the local mega project to soak up funds needed for projects in the rest of the country.
“We’re glad to see that members from New York would like to maintain that line of communication and welcome their continued participation as we work to fix our broken infrastructure system so that all qualified and responsible projects can go from concept to construction quickly and efficiently,” White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters told the Free Beacon.