NEW YORK — Hillary Clinton came to the defense of the Gateway Project and accused President Donald Trump of playing politics by holding back federal funds as several members of the New Jersey congressional delegation criticized Republican House efforts to cut funding.

The project to build a new rail tunnel between New York and New Jersey and a new Portal Bridge was set under the Obama administration, providing half the funding for the $30 billion project. Trump has come out against the funding and reportedly told House speaker Paul Ryan not to put any money in the budget for it.

During a Senate committee hearing in March, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao accused supporters of "bullying" her to commit funding. She said that the project did not follow the "process" for funding.

Clinton on Friday called it the country's most critical infrastructure project.

“Not acting on the Gateway Tunnel is a disaster in itself waiting to happen, and it’s time for the Trump administration to stop using this vital project to settle petty political scores,” Clinton said at the Regional Plan Association's 28th annual assembly in New York.

"If our existing rail tunnels under the Hudson River fail, our region will become completely paralyzed and cut off, and the economic consequences will reverberate, not just across this region, but across the country and the world," Clinton said. "Not acting on the Gateway tunnel is a disaster in itself waiting to happen."

Democratic congressmen Josh Gottheimer, Donald Norcross, Frank Pallone, Bill Pascrell, Donald Payne and Bonnie Watson Coleman plus Republican Leonard Lance called out GOP House members who signed a letter calling upon Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mike Mulvaney to remove Gateway funding from the budget.

"New York and New Jersey are, respectively, the 14th and third wealthiest states in the country and, according to (Cho), are currently contributing zero percent of the funds for the Hudson tunnel and 5 percent of the funds for the Portal North Bridge. Construction on this project would also occur in the most expensive rail construction environment in the world," read the letter.

Gottheimer called their states "Moocher States" because he said his district only gets back 33 cents for every dollar sent to Washington.

"I’m for tax cuts, but these Moocher States are now trying to rescind, or take back, the investment that's being made for the Gateway Program," Gottheimer said.

Norcross agreed, posting on his Twitter account: "We vote to help *all* Americans - because we’re Jersey Strong, not Jersey Schmucks."

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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