No sooner had President Trump in his address to Congress reiterated his promise to create jobs by rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure, than Rep. Donald Norcross had a priorities list ready for him. It’s contained in a letter to the president from the Building Trades Caucus — which urges projects be funded and fast tracked. NJTV News Anchor Mary Alice Williams spoke with Norcross about the letter.
Williams: Thank you for being here.
Norcross: Thank you, I appreciate it.
Williams: What key infrastructure priorities would you like the president to fund?
Norcross: All of them — how’s that for starters? Nobody has to drive anywhere in New Jersey without finding out very quickly that our roads, our bridges and tunnels need some help.
Williams: Which specifically in New Jersey? I mean, since there has to be a priorities list. What do you think is in the most dire need of it?
Norcross: Yeah, the priority list would come from each and every state and that would be dependent on the Department of Transportation. But one thing we want to do as part of this is to indicate the definition of the infrastructure being much broader than some of the traditional ones.
Williams: And what do you mean by that — expanding the definition of infrastructure?
Norcross: Infrastructure, most people think of roads and bridges, but we want to include the ports, the rail lines, the airports, the electric grid, internet — these are all part of our infrastructure and nobody has to go any further than Flint to understand that our water pipes are in dire need of replacement.
Williams: You also mentioned a mixture of traditional and innovative funding methods. Do you anticipate developing public/private partnerships? What are the innovative methods?
Norcross: Well, I think that if we look at the needs of our country, they’re great. Whether it’s our defense or domestic programs. There’s a great amount of pressure on us to this financially in a way that works for all of us. So the public/private partnerships I think absolutely have to come into effect here in order for us to really put the $1 trillion that the president has to make.
Williams: This has been brought up before, by President Obama. It didn’t get any traction at the time. Why do you think it’s going to get traction now?
Norcross: Well the fact of the matter, it became part of the presidential campaign — which means both of the candidates were talking about rebuilding our ports, our airports or roads. The fact that Donald Trump has made it as part of his mission to fix our roads and bridges. I think that automatically gets put on the front burner.
Williams: Are there workers with the right skills ready and waiting to work on infrastructure projects?
Norcross: Well, it’s so important that when the work does come that we have a workforce that is able to do it. We’re encouraging the president to use the existing apprenticeship programs that are in place across this nation. There are close to 1,000 apprenticeship halls that are training men and women to come out and do these jobs. We have it in place. All we have to do is engage it.
Williams: Democrats have actually costed this out at about $1 trillion. Do we have the money to do that?
Norcross: Well, we have to do it. So we have to find the resources and that’s part of the approach that we are asking the president to look at. Let’s come in, work in a bipartisan manner, because infrastructure is a bipartisan issue. So we need to tackle this together. I think that the need is there certainly, the desire to have the work done is there and we get both sides of the table along with the White House, I think we can get this done.
Williams: But bipartisanship is difficult to achieve in Washington these days, it seems. Is there bipartisan momentum to get the infrastructure bill passed?
Norcross: Yes — that’s the short answer. The fact that we have 67 members sitting on this caucus already shows the desire to get things done. Now obviously, there are many things that we disagree with the administration, but this is one area that I think we can come together.
Williams: Let me ask you about Attorney General Jeff Sessions. You’re calling on President Trump to ask for his resignation. Do you think there is enough evidence on his communications with Russia so far to take that kind of action?
Norcross: The attorney general, the highest authority in the land, has to be beyond reproach and the fact of the matter is anybody can call up and look at his testimony in front of the Senate where he says he has no communications with the Russians. Which is exactly the difference of what we now found out happened. That he met twice with them at the Republican convention. We can’t afford to have a doubt on the attorney general this is really important.
Williams: Speaker Paul Ryan has said he should just recuse himself if there is an investigation. Is that enough? [Later in the day, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced he would recuse himself from any “existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for president of the United States.”]
Norcross: Well, with [Gen. Michael] Flynn it was enough that he misspoke and didn’t tell him about his meetings and the president fired him. Why is it that the attorney general is going to be treated any differently? This is not Republican or a Democrat issue, this is an American issue. We’re seeing time after time the Russians have been involved in the election. That twice, one of the highest positions in our country we’re finding people lying about being with Russians. This is a very big issue and we have to make sure that it is investigated independently and be above reproach.
Williams: OK, thank you very much for your time today, Congressman.
Norcross: Thank you.