On Monday, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx tried to light a fire under Congress, reminding the gridlocked national legislature that if they don't find $18 billion in spare change by the end of August, the Highway Trust Fund could run out of money. This is bad news: An empty trust fund could stall more than 112,000 already ongoing infrastructure projects and unhelpfully affect almost 700,000 jobs, according to a White House economic analysis.
And that's just the ongoing projects. The U.S. needs more infrastructure projects, not fewer. "We have an infrastructure deficit in this country," Foxx said Monday. "We cannot meet the needs of a growing country and a growing economy by simply maintaining our current level of effort." He's right.
So what's the good news? The Highway Trust Fund — which pays for a lot of not just highway projects but bridge repairs and public transportation needs — is financed almost entirely through a dedicated federal gas tax. And thanks to more efficient cars (hybrids + federal mileage standards) and fewer Americans driving, U.S. motorists are buying less gas — with results this chart from The Washington Post demonstrates:
As Slate's Josh Voorhees notes, there's a simple, obvious solution to the funding shortfall — raising the gas tax, stuck at 18.4 cents a gallon since 1994 — and Washington won't touch it. Congress will have to do something, probably foolish. But let's take a moment to admire the silver lining: Using less gas is something every side of the political spectrum can celebrate. Peter Weber
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) weighed in on President Trump's standoff with North Korea Sunday in an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper, suggesting the situation "could be a Cuban Missile Crisis in slow motion."
McCain said he would prefer China "put the brakes on this," but would not take U.S. military intervention off the table. "This is very serious. Their capabilities of firing artillery on Seoul is absolutely real," he said. "And this, again, is why we have to bring every pressure to bear. And the major lever on North Korea today, and maybe the only lever, is China."
"But to say you absolutely rule out that option, of course, would be foolish," McCain continued. "But it has to be the ultimate last option." Watch an excerpt of his comments below, and see this analysis from The Week's Harry J. Kazianis for a more measured look at Pyongyang's capabilities. Bonnie Kristian
— CNN (@CNN) April 30, 2017
President Trump will meet with Filipino President Duterte, who says he doesn't 'care about human rights'
President Trump has invited controversial Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte to Washington to reaffirm the U.S.-Philippines alliance, the White House said Saturday. The two leaders spoke by phone, and Trump "enjoyed the conversation," expressing his belief that the two nations are "now heading in a very positive direction."
A statement from Duterte's office was similarly friendly. "The discussion that transpired between the presidents was warm, with President Trump expressing his understanding and appreciation of the challenges facing the Philippine president, especially on the matter of dangerous drugs," Duterte's camp said.
Duterte has come under broad criticism for his brutal prosecution of the drug war, which includes encouragement of extrajudicial killings. "My order is shoot to kill you," he notoriously said of drug dealers. "I don't care about human rights, you'd better believe me." Bonnie Kristian
In an interview with Face the Nation on CBS airing Sunday, President Trump said, "I don't know. I mean, we'll see," when asked if another nuclear test by North Korea would prompt him to choose military intervention against Pyongyang. "I would not be happy," Trump said of a hypothetical test, "If he does a nuclear test I would not be happy. And I can tell you also that the president of China, who is a very respected man, won't be happy either."
Trump was speaking in response to Saturday's failed missile test, in which North Korea unsuccessfully fired a ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan. Pressed with the same question while touring a factory in Pennsylvania Saturday, Trump was similarly vague. "You'll soon find out, won't you?" he said. "You'll soon find out."
Also on Saturday, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster reaffirmed the United States' commitment to pay for South Korea's THAAD missile defense system, comments that apparently contradict President Trump's recent suggestion that Seoul should foot the $1 billion bill.
Watch Trump's Face the Nation comments in context below. Bonnie Kristian
Pres. Trump: “I would not be happy,” if North Korea does a nuclear test. pic.twitter.com/9IqgCPflZ9
— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) April 30, 2017
Severe storms tore through Southeast and Midwest states including Missouri, Arkansas, and Texas over the weekend, leaving at least seven people dead and dozens more injured. Five people were killed by tornadoes that struck near Dallas, Texas, and 54 more people were hospitalized with weather-related injuries.
Parts of Missouri and Arkansas have been deluged in up to 11 inches of rain, closing at least 150 roads in Missouri alone. One woman was killed when her vehicle submerged, and another woman died when a tree fell on her home.
The White House Correspondents' Dinner carried on in President Trump's absence Saturday evening, and Reuters' Jeff Mason, president of the White House Correspondents' Association, took the occasion to push back against Trump's "fake news" accusations. "We are not fake news, we are not failing news organizations, and we are not the enemy of the American people," Mason said. "Freedom of the press is a building block of our democracy. Undermining that by seeking to delegitimize journalists is dangerous to a healthy republic."
The dinner's host was The Daily Show's Hasan Minhaj, who did address free speech — "Only in America can a first generation Indian American Muslim kid get on this stage and make fun of the president!" — but spent much of his time skewering the absent Trump, "the elephant not in the room."
"Trump is liar-in-chief, and remember, you guys are public enemy number one," Minhaj said. "You are his biggest enemy. Journalists. ISIS. Normal-length ties. And somehow, you're the bad guys."
Full Frontal's Samantha Bee held a competing event, "Not the White House Correspondents' Dinner," addressing similar themes. Watch Minhaj's full speech below. Bonnie Kristian
— Hasan Minhaj (@hasanminhaj) April 30, 2017
President Trump celebrated his 100th day in office with a cheering rally crowd in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Saturday evening, skipping the White House Correspondents' Dinner in favor of a return to the campaign trail.
"I could not possibly be more thrilled than to be more than 100 miles away from Washington's swamp, spending my evening with all of you and with a much, much larger crowd and much better people," he told supporters in a speech ranging from North Korea to ObamaCare to Hillary Clinton. "The media deserves a very big, fat, failing grade."
Trump reiterated his trademark promise to build an enormous wall along the southern border — "Don't even worry about it," he assured his audience — and mocked the "fake news" people "trapped" at the "very, very boring" dinner in Washington. Watch an excerpt of his comments below. Bonnie Kristian
— CBS News (@CBSNews) April 30, 2017
President Trump announced last weekend he would "be holding a BIG rally in Pennsylvania" to mark his first 100 days in office, an event scheduled for Saturday that also gives the president alternative plans to the White House Correspondents' Dinner he has declined to attend.
The host of this year's dinner is The Daily Show's Hasan Minhaj, whom Reuters' Jeff Mason, president of the White House Correspondents' Association, asked to focus on "the importance of a free press" instead of simply taking the opportunity to "roast the president in absentia." Mason added, "That doesn't mean there can't be some jokes about the president, but just that there should be some jokes on the press."
The dinner in Washington, D.C., and the rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, both begin at 7:30 p.m. and will be streamed live online. Watch the dinner via C-SPAN and the rally via CBS News. Bonnie Kristian