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Editorial: Federal government must be partner in addressing U.S. infrastructure needs

From immigration to health care to Cabinet appointments and all points in between, there has been plenty of conflict between Republican President Donald Trump and Democrats during the president’s opening three-plus weeks on the job.

Looking ahead, though, there could be a place where Trump may find stronger support from Democrats than some of his fellow Republicans — investing in the nation’s infrastructure.

West Virginia’s two U.S. senators, in fact, had the opportunity to discuss the issue with Trump last week.

Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, an appellate judge from Colorado, was the main but not the lone topic at a White House luncheon and meeting attended by senators of both political parties.

“Today my colleagues and I had a very productive meeting with President Trump. We discussed his Supreme Court nominee, Judge Gorsuch, ways we can improve and invest in our infrastructure and fighting the opioid abuse epidemic,” Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said. “I will continue to review Judge Gorsuch’s record, qualifications and his future testimony to determine if I will support him. I look forward to working with President Trump and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to work through this confirmation process and the other issues we discussed today.”

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R.W.Va., also attended. She had already said she’ll vote to confirm Gorsuch for the high court, but she used her time in the White House to bring up infrastructure and other issues.

“I raised the issue of the digital divide that exists in rural America and encouraged the president to include broadband in any infrastructure package,” Capito said. “We also discussed solutions for curbing the opioid epidemic and solving problems at the (Department of Veterans Affairs), as well as the need to swiftly confirm Judge Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.”

During the presidential campaign, Trump pledged to mobilize anywhere from half a trillion to a trillion dollars into upgrading the nation’s aging roads, bridges and transportation hubs.

“We will build new roads and highways and tunnels and airports and railways across the nation,” the president told Republican lawmakers at a retreat last month. “We will fix our existing product before we build anything brand new, however.”

The political implications, obviously, are daunting.

As Politico reported, “The politics of a bipartisan infrastructure deal were already rough for Trump, with GOP leaders wary of any new spending and more interested in tackling health care and tax reform.”

At the same time, support for improvements across the United States crosses party lines.

“Every single governor in this nation has roads, bridges, tunnels, airports and more that could be repaired or replaced — creating jobs and economic opportunity along the way,” Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat and chairman of the National Governors Association (NGA), said.

The NGA last Wednesday forwarded a list of 428 “shovel-ready” projects to the new administration.

The federal government can’t do it alone. Every state and each municipality has plenty of work — and tough decisions — ahead.

Washington, though, can be a willing partner. It’s a pledge made by Trump that he certainly must keep.

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