POLITICO reports: With President Donald Trump was in an unusually bipartisan mood on September 7, when he convened a White House meeting about a massive project to build a rail tunnel under the Hudson River. He was still basking in the glow of a surprise deal he had cut the day before with top congressional Democrats, avoiding a government shutdown and generating a flurry of positive press. Now he was huddling with a bipartisan group of politicians from his home base of New York and New Jersey about the bipartisan topic of infrastructure, the issue on which the former developer seemed to share the most common ground with his political adversaries.
The topic of the meeting—the proposed $11 billion “Gateway” tunnel between New Jersey and Manhattan—was big, bold and arguably the nation’s most urgent infrastructure project. The decrepit century-old tunnels that currently carry 200,000 daily passengers under the Hudson could fail at any time, which could devastate America’s most populous and productive metropolitan area, as well as paralyze the crucial Amtrak corridor connecting Boston through New York down to Washington, D.C. An engineering marvel to save Gotham from disaster felt like the kind of Trumpian megaproject the president might enjoy calling his own.
As the political supplicants filed into the room, Trump jovially greeted New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat who might run against him in 2020, as “my governor,” and praised his work rebuilding a bridge over the Hudson, as well as LaGuardia Airport. He wished a happy birthday to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a Republican who did run against him in 2016; Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer quipped that his gift to Christie should be a new tunnel. Trump had publicly mocked Schumer as “Cryin’ Chuck” and “the head clown” in less amicable times, but now he kept reaching across one of his aides to shake Schumer’s hand as they bantered about their unexpected budget deal.
“It’s playing great, isn’t it?”? Trump crowed. “Absolutely,” said Congressman Peter King, a Republican from Long Island. “And this project would be another perfect example of bipartisanship.”
By the end of the 40-minute meeting, it sounded like Trump was on board with the entire $30 billion Gateway program, not only the tunnel but a suite of related projects along the most congested stretch of American passenger rail. He delighted Gateway’s boosters by calling the tunnel vital for the economy, though he did note that it would be tough to get credit for, like an air conditioning project in the basement of one of his hotels. “Nobody’s gonna see it,” Trump told the group, “but you still gotta do it.” The politicians in attendance thought the president had even embraced an Obama administration commitment for federal taxpayers to foot half the bill.
After the meeting, though, Trump asked Schumer to stay behind. He bluntly offered another deal, an offer suggesting he had a rather different conception of Gateway’s larger importance: Schumer could have his tunnel if Trump got his border wall with Mexico.
Schumer said he couldn’t make that trade. And ever since, the Trump administration has been doing just about everything in its power to derail the Gateway project. In March, the president threatened to veto an entire $1.2 trillion government spending bill if it included anything at all for Gateway. POLITICO