Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao is seen at Trump Tower in August 2017.
CNN  — 

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao confirmed last week to lawmakers that President Donald Trump is personally lobbying House Speaker Paul Ryan to block federal funding for a multibillion-dollar infrastructure project.

Democratic Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney of New York asked Chao during a hearing March 6 if reporting earlier this month by The Washington Post that Trump was lobbying to kill a project to build a new rail tunnel between New York and New Jersey was true. Chao replied it “probably” was but that he would have to ask the White House. In a testy exchange, Maloney pointed out that she was coming before Congress as the transportation secretary and a member of Trump’s Cabinet, and pressed, “Is the President of the United States personally intervening with the speaker to kill this project?”

“Yes,” Chao replied. “The President is concerned about the viability of this project and the fact that New York and New Jersey have no skin in the game.”

Chao argued that if these two states absorbed the funds, “there will be no other funds for the rest of the country.”

The Gateway rail project aims to improve passenger rail access to and from Manhattan, and would build a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River as well as rebuild the existing deteriorating North River Tunnel, which carries trains between Penn Station and New Jersey. This project is included in the omnibus spending bill that Congress is set to take up later this month.

“Gateway is one of the very most important infrastructure programs in our country,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat who is a key backer of the project. “If those two tunnels that are now under the Hudson River are no longer functional, there will be recession in the entire country, not just in New York, New Jersey, the Northeast Corridor.”