Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) made a bizarre decision in 2010, killing a project called Access to the Region’s Core, “a years-in-the-making effort” to build a new rail tunnel from New Jersey to New York City. Proponents of the project say it could have created as many as 44,000 jobs in and around the state and hiked local property values by up to $18 billion.
But for reasons that never seemed to add up, Christie wouldn’t budge. Now that the New Jersey Republican has since left office, maybe now the infrastructure investments can move forward? Maybe not.
Just a few months ago, the idea once again appeared to have gained the support it needed in Washington and, once again, it looks as if one powerful official – in this case, the president – could put a stop to it. The latest and perhaps most ominous threat came late Friday night when it was revealed that President Trump had asked Republican leaders to withdraw federal funding for the project.
Mr. Trump has promised to spur “the biggest and boldest infrastructure investment in American history.” So his opposition to an established project that is widely considered a solution to one of the nation’s most critical infrastructure needs has confounded even veterans of his own party.
Note, this isn’t just a White House move; it’s an issue the president has taken up personally. The Washington Post reported that Trump took it upon himself to directly urge House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) last week not to support funding for the project.
And while the White House hasn’t offered a detailed explanation for the president’s apparent opposition, by all accounts, Trump is rejecting the much-needed infrastructure project in order to spite Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
“If the news reports are accurate that he wants to kill it or hold it because he’s mad at Chuck Schumer, that makes no sense,” Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y,) said. “This is essential to the national economy as well as the regional economy.”
It’s not like the White House can say the project is unimportant: Team Trump is on record identifying the Gateway project under the Hudson River as the nation’s No. 1 infrastructure priority – Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao also endorsed it as a top administration goal – which Trump himself now opposes.
Some may see stories like these as unimportant to people outside the Northeast, but I think there’s a larger context. After the 2016 election, Trump critics had a series of fears about the kind of president he’d be. Among other things, Trump’s detractors expected the amateur politician to be small and petty, indifferent to the public’s needs, more concerned with personal grudges than national interests, governing through a series of child-like tantrums.
A year and a half later, I think it’s safe to say those concerns were well justified.
It’s especially odd that Trump would do this to his own home state. It’s a given that every American president always has to consider the nation as a whole, but as a rule, presidents tend to be mindful of their home states and home towns.
Trump’s judgment is such that he’s prepared to hurt his fellow New Yorkers in the hopes of bothering Chuck Schumer. This falls far outside the boundaries of conventional presidential politics.