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Washington

President’s call for bipartisan efforts on infrastructure offers possibility of progress

President Donald Trump's calls for new infrastructure spending and more bipartisanship on Capitol Hill are raising the possibility that infrastructure measures could advance.

In his State of the Union speech Tuesday night, Mr. Trump said Congress "is eager to pass an infrastructure bill — and I am eager to work with you on legislation to deliver new and important infrastructure investment, including investments in the cutting-edge industries of the future. This is not an option. This is a necessity."

A White House fact sheet made available after the speech said that in addition to rebuilding aging infrastructure, the president is urging investing in "visionary projects that leverage cutting-edge technologies" such as 5G wireless, advanced manufacturing, quantum computing, artificial intelligence and rural broadband, and for more efficient permitting processes, especially for energy infrastructure projects.

On Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the administration would "like to have a trillion-dollar package" that could come from several funding sources, including states. "We look forward to sitting down with the Democrats and the Republicans in Congress and having a bipartisan solution to pass an infrastructure bill," Mr. Mnuchin said.

Henry Cisneros, chairman and co-chief investment officer of American Triple I, an infrastructure investment firm recently launched by principals of Siebert Cisneros Shank & Co., said he is optimistic that Washington will heed the call.

"I am hopeful that after this moment of extreme contentiousness, infrastructure will indeed be one of the few things that reaps the benefits of bipartisan interest. It's clear that it is necessary," said Mr. Cisneros, who served as secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Bill Clinton. While he said he hopes Congress recognizes that "waiting too much longer gives up too much ground," Mr. Cisneros added that "the country is going to have to build its infrastructure one way or another because we can't wait. We have to unleash private capital."

In his 2018 State of the Union speech, Mr. Trump called on Congress to produce a $1.5 trillion infrastructure spending package, but no legislation was enacted. There is now more bipartisan interest in getting legislation passed, according to Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., the newly installed chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. He said he expects to hold a hearing on infrastructure spending in the coming weeks, with testimony from a diverse group of interests ranging from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to the AFL-CIO, all of which are pushing for a federal infrastructure package.