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As Johnson Takes Oath At RUS, Purdue Remains ‘Hopeful’ On Infrastructure Plan Prospects

Andrew Feinberg

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WASHINGTON, April 30, 2018 -- Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on Monday said he is "always hopeful" that progress will be made on President Trump's $1.5 billion infrastructure plan, even as Congress shifts its focus to the upcoming primary election season.

"I'm always hopeful," he said when asked about the plan's prospects shortly after a swearing-in ceremony for incoming Rural Utilities Service Administrator Ken Johnson and several other Agriculture Department officials.

But Purdue explained that it's far more likely that what progress is made on the infrastructure plan will be in the form of piecemeal appropriations like the $600 million set aside for the RUS in the FY2018 spending bill signed into law last month.

"I think what we will see more than likely are component pieces of [the plan]. Whether there will be a holistic bill or not, I can't say -- that's for Congress to decide."

Purdue also said the Trump administration's approach to rural broadband, which relies more heavily on matching funds than the 2009 Recovery Act's Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, the Obama administration's signature broadband initiative.

"I'm a skin-in-the-game kind of guy," he said, adding that if all stakeholders should have a "vested interest" in the process, they will work harder to make it successful.

Perdue deflected a question about the size of his security detail

A short time later he was asked about the relatively paltry size of his security detail compared with embattled EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, and whether he felt adequately protected. Pruitt has been under fire in recent months, for, among other things, increasing his security detail to over 20 full-time Special Agents working three shifts.

"I feel safe, I'm just less important," he said with a grin.

Purdue spoke to reporters shortly after he administered the oath of office to Johnson, who until recently was general manager and CEO of Co-Mo Electric Cooperative and president of Co-Mo Connect in Tipton, Missouri. In the latter role, he oversaw deployment of a Fiber To The Home network which provided 16,000 subscribers with gigabit internet for data, voice and video services without using any federal or state funds.

Johnson told BroadbandBreakfast.com it felt "incredible" to finally be able to be sworn in.

When asked if he was ready to get to work, he simply replied: "Absolutely."

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