Politics & Policy

The Corner

What Sort of Infrastructure Bill Does the White House Want?

Over the weekend Josh Dawsey reported for the Washington Post that “President Trump expressed misgivings about his administration’s infrastructure plan Friday at Camp David, telling Republican leaders that building projects through public-private partnerships is unlikely to work — and that it may be better for the government to pursue a different path.” That sentence is accurate, without spin, and utterly remarkable. As are the next sentences: “Then on Saturday morning, Gary Cohn, the president’s chief economic adviser, delivered a detailed proposal on infrastructure and public-private partnerships that seemed to contradict the president. He said the administration hoped $200 billion in new federal government spending would trigger almost $1 trillion in private spending and local and state spending, according to people familiar with his comments. Cohn seemed to present the plan as the administration’s approach, although the president had suggested such an approach might not work.”

At CNBC, Eamonn Javers has a similar report: “A senior GOP Capitol Hill aide agreed that the plan under consideration and the president’s plan might be at odds. ‘There’s an outline of a plan that (White House economic advisor) Gary Cohn has put forward. I’m not sure if Trump is completely on board with that,’ the aide said, also speaking on condition of anonymity.” Note that by “the plan under consideration” Javers appears to mean “the plan under consideration by the White House.”

There have certainly been occasions during previous administrations when a president had sentiments at odds with those prevailing among his aides. That seems to have been true of President George W. Bush on federal funding for embryo-destructive research and President Barack Obama on Afghanistan policy. What I can’t recall is any occasion during a previous administration when anyone entertained the possibility that there might be a “White House policy” different from the president’s. But this administration runs very differently than past ones, for good or ill.

Ramesh Ponnuru — Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg View, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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