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'It's about quality of life': Pelosi touts one of Higgins' top issues – infrastructure investment

WASHINGTON – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made clear Sunday that one of Rep. Brian Higgins' top priorities – a massive infusion of federal funding to rebuild America – is one of her top priorities, too.

Pelosi spoke at a National Governors Association event with New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. The two longtime politicians made no mention of the top Washington issues of last week, such as the Senate's acquittal of President Trump after his impeachment, or the Trump administration's decision to bar New Yorkers from enrolling or re-enrolling in federal trusted traveler programs.

Instead, they focused on issues important to the nation's governors, with a big federal infrastructure bill at the top of the list.

"I think it is really honestly within range" and could come together this year, Pelosi said.

That would be great news for Higgins, a Buffalo Democrat who has been pushing for years for an infrastructure package of at least $1.2 trillion.

Higgins committed to supporting Pelosi for another term as House speaker based in part on a pledge that such an infrastructure package would be a top House priority.

Pelosi told Cuomo that the House's infrastructure plans got derailed when Trump abruptly cut off negotiations on the issue until and unless Democrats stopped investigating his administration.

She said Rep. Richard Neal, the Massachusetts Democrat who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, will have breakfast with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Tuesday in hopes of getting talks restarted on an infrastructure bill.

"So I think there's a real chance," said Pelosi, a California Democrat. "The president wants it."

So does Pelosi.

"This is an issue that is not just about bricks and mortar and paving roads and the rest," she said. "It's about growth, it's about quality of life. It's about public health in terms of clean air, clean water for getting cars off the road or public transit. ... It's about broadband into rural areas especially but into some of the urban deserts."

Higgins said Sunday that the bill could mean more money for local projects at the Inner Harbor, the Outer Harbor, the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and in downtown Buffalo.

"There are a lot of quality economic growth benefits from doing infrastructure investment, and it's something that is supported by everybody, virtually everybody," he said. "And there's no reason why we shouldn't be able to get that done."

Pelosi acknowledged, though, that Republicans and Democrats have had trouble agreeing on how to pay for an infrastructure investment of more than $1 trillion.

"It's all about the pay-for," she said.

Cuomo, vice chair of the governors association, asked Pelosi about the infrastructure issue.

"Infrastructure is a tremendous need," Cuomo said. "Everybody knows it. Everybody talks about it."

It seemed like nobody wanted to talk on Sunday, however, about the latest divisive issue to split the Trump and Cuomo administrations: the ending of federal trusted traveler programs in New York.

The Department of Homeland Security last week announced that New Yorkers will no longer be able to apply for programs such as NEXUS, which eases crossing the Canadian border, or Global Entry, which speeds up the customs process for international travelers.

Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf said the agency did that in response to the state's Green Light law, which allows undocumented immigrants to get driver's licenses and bars homeland security personnel from seeing state Department of Motor Vehicles records.

That issue is likely to return to the news on Monday, when James P. Kennedy, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of New York, holds a news conference with Department of Homeland Security officials in Buffalo.

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