Congress is revving up is effort to pass an infrastructure spending bill by holding two key Senate hearings this week, in anticipation of receiving an infrastructure proposal from the Trump administration "in the next several weeks."
The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will hold a hearing Wednesday on "the road forward," for transportation infrastructure reform, which was one of President Trump's key campaign promises.
The hearing will feature Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who is expected to discuss Trump administration's ambitious plan to spent more than $1 trillion to rebuilt the nation's roads, bridges and other infrastructure.
Chao on Monday told the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that Trump's infrastructure plan will be sent to Capitol Hill soon, and will be added to a packed agenda that includes healthcare reform and tax reform.
"The administration will share its vision of what the infrastructure plan will look like in the next several weeks, which will kick off our collaboration with Congress," Chao told the Chamber.
Chao told the Chamber the plan would call for spending $200 billion, which would be used to leverage $1 trillion in private infrastructure money over a decade.
Chao told the Chamber the $200 billion in federal spending would be offset by cuts elsewhere in the budget, "in order to avoid saddling future generations with more debt."
The EPW committee is also holding a hearing on Tuesday that focuses on "innovative solutions" for funding infrastructure projects. Witnesses include Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti as well as transportation officials from Oklahoma City, Richmond, Va., and Washington D.C.
A Republican aide for the EPW committee said the panel chairman, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wy., is examining infrastructure improvements and modernization needed for roads, highways, waterways, ports and other structures, with an emphasis on rural infrastructure and the importance of streamlining projects to save money and speed up work.
Wednesday's hearing "is to hear testimony from the Secretary of Transportation regarding the Department of Transportation's views on the transportation infrastructure needs of the country," the aide said.
It's not clear whether the House or Senate will have the time or the political will to take on infrastructure legislation, but the issue is one of the few areas where lawmakers at one time believed there could be bipartisan agreement.
Both chambers have been vague on timing and the House has not scheduled any hearings on an infrastructure bill.
"The committee has been working with members and others to explore potential ideas for possible infrastructure legislation," a House Transportation Committee spokesperson told the Washington Examiner. "There has also been good communication between the Committee and the administration. The chairman continues to stay in touch with the White House and work with them as this process moves forward."
Senate Democrats in January unveiled their own $1 trillion plan, paid for with federal money and without proposed offsets. The proposal is a non-starter with the GOP but there could be areas where the two parties can find common ground.
"It's an area where I'm convinced there is bipartisan agreement," Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., the former head of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, told a Columbia University podcast on Monday. "The country wants us to come to an agreement."
But Democrats appear poised to oppose anything offered by the Trump administration. Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez said Monday Trump's plan to privatize infrastructure would cost drivers more money and benefit Wall Street, not workers.
"Instead of encouraging critical federal investments to repair our roads and highways, Trump's privatization plan would spur a boom in the construction of new tolls that empty the pockets of working families to increase the profits of wealthy corporations," Perez said in a statement.