McCarthy: Drilling On Public Lands Could Fund Infrastructure Spending

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Speaking at a fundraiser in Hauppauge, NY, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy(R-Calif.) told an audience of donors this week that the House leadership must govern in the next 2 years or gains made in it and the Senate will mean little.

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McCarthy became the No. 2 Republican in the House last summer. He laid out in the richest detail yet his goals for a Republican-controlled Capitol Hill to Politico.

If republicans take the Senate, as many expect, next week, McCarthy told Politico that one unified agenda will bridge both chambers. House and Senate Republicans will kick off the year at a joint retreat to get on the same page. He and Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) have already been holding private dinners with lawmakers from both chambers to build relationships.

“You have a lot of new people over there and [they] don’t instinctively like the Senate to start with, which I get,” Thune said. “In the House, it’s a dynamic where you really have to work it. And we’re trying to do a better job of that.”

Infrastructure spending is one of McCarthy’s first priorities for the new congress. Highway spending will likely come up, McCarthy said, and, for the first time, he suggested it could be funded by new oil and natural gas drilling on public lands. The Highway Trust Fund is currently running on a stopgap bill that will expire in May. The two major parties have previously staked out ideological positions based on higher gas taxes or block grants to the states to fix the nation’s crumbling highways and bridges. Replacing revenue via drilling would take the taxation argument out of the debate. However, new drilling on public lands has been a contentious issue since President Bush’s first term when he proposed drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

McCarthy told Politico he’s already meeting with individual House members to work on legislation including highway spending.

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