- President-elect Donald Trump has chosen two prominent New York City developers to oversee his $1 trillion infrastructure plan, according to The Wall Street Journal.
- Richard LeFrak and Steven Roth have extensive careers in real estate development, and Trump said they will supervise the group of experts — including 15 to 20 builders and engineers — he has assembled to keep an eye on spending during an overhaul of the nation's bridges, roads and other public assets.
- Trump's infrastructure strategy has come under fire from critics who argue that potential investors will only want to sign on for projects with profit potential, leaving non-revenue-generating yet critical assets ignored.
It was only last month that The Washington Post reported that Trump was forming an infrastructure task force to make sure his plans were executed in line with his vision. Although LeFrak and Roth will most likely hold considerable sway over the committee's decisions, theirs are not cabinet-level positions, so Senate confirmation is not required.
This is bound to irk some lawmakers who might take issue with two individuals with private-sector interests making potentially multibillion-dollar project decisions. For example, although the proposed new $2 billion Federal Bureau of Investigation headquarters building is not likely the type of project with which the task force will concern itself, Roth will head up the board chairman of a major contender for the contract, developer JBG Smith, later this year, according to Forbes.
The House of Representatives has imposed conditions on the project's funding, but some experts believe that Trump himself will have direct input over who wins the contract.
Appearances aren't the only hurdles Trump must overcome in pushing through his infrastructure initiative. Although upgrading critical assets is largely a bipartisan issue, Democrats are resistant to a plan that relies so heavily on private money, with Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-NY, calling a proposed 82% tax credit in exchange for private equity investment a gimmick.
Schumer said the plan should include significant, direct federal spending, a move that Senate Major Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, warned would be met with Republican resistance, just as other spending bills have. McConnell is also the husband of Trump's transportation secretary nominee Elaine Chao, who also served as labor secretary under former President George W. Bush.