Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg rallied support for the Biden administration’s massive infrastructure plan in an interview on Sunday’s “Meet the Press,” arguing the bill represents “a generational investment” that can position the country for the future.
“Infrastructure is the foundation that makes it possible for Americans to thrive. And what we know is that foundation has been crumbling.” Buttigieg said.
“We’re still coasting on infrastructure choices that were made in the 1950," he said. "Now’s our chance to make infrastructure choices for the future that are going to serve us well in the 2030s and onto the middle of the century when we will be judged for whether we meet this moment here in the 2020s.”
President Joe Biden unveiled his $2 trillion infrastructure plan last week, a sweeping plan that includes $155 billion earmarked toward repairing roads and bridges; $80 million dedicated to Amtrak repairs; $40 billion for public housing improvements; $111 billion for repairing lead pipes; $42 billion for ports and airports; $100 billion for public school improvements; and $180 billion for research and development.
The administration is also planning to announce a second plan related to the social safety net in the coming weeks.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has said she wants to pass the bill around the July 4 holiday, but the plan’s fate in the Senate remains unclear. Senate Democrats will either need to bring 10 Republicans on board to reach the 60-vote threshold needed to pass the bill through the body, or they can rely on a procedural move called reconciliation, which allows them to pass some budget-related legislation with a majority vote.
Biden plans to pay for the massive plan primarily by increasing the corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent, something Republicans have called a non-starter for them. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters last week that he is “alarmed about the size of the debt” and that it’s a “big mistake” to pay for the plan with “a combination of massive tax increases on businesses and individuals, and more borrowing.”
“I think that package they’re putting together now, as much as we would like to address infrastructure, is not going to get support from our side.”
Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., told “Meet the Press” that he’s been trading phone calls with Buttigieg on infrastructure, but pushed back on the idea that Republicans would go along with rolling back part of the business tax cuts the Republican-controlled Congress passed into law under former President Donald Trump.
“How could the president expect to have bipartisanship when his proposal is a repeal of one of our signature issues in 2017, where we cut the tax rate and made the United States finally more competitive when it comes to the way we treat job creators?” Wicker asked.
Buttigieg is among the five cabinet members Biden tasked with selling the infrastructure plan to Congress and the public. He said he’s continuing to work to bring Republican senators on board, but signaled that “we can’t let politics slow this down.”
And he pitched the plan as one that won’t just help repair decaying infrastructure, but help bolster America’s status as an economic leader and as a leader on issues like climate change in the decades to come.
“America will be much more economically competitive, we’ll be stronger in terms of leading the world because of the research and development investments that are here, and we will be on track to avoid climate disaster because of the provisions for things like electric vehicles,” he said.
“Those electric vehicles that more and more people around the world are driving will be increasingly made in America by union workers," Buttigieg said. This is what you get for planning for the long term.”
The Biden administration's infrastructure push was center stage on the Sunday political talk shows. Like Wicker, Republicans expressed little appetite for raising taxes to fund the project and took issue with the scope of the proposed package.
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., told ABC's "This Week" he had reached out to the White House to say that if the package was more narrow it would be "an easy bipartisan win."
"And then the other 70 or so percent of the package that doesn't have very much to do with infrastructure, if you want to force that in a partisan way, you can still do that," he said.
On CNN's "State of the Union," Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican, said his state could use federal infrastructure dollars but came out against the Biden plan.
"If the Biden administration will do what the president has said he wants to do, which is work with Republicans, I believe we can come up with a plan that we can afford, one that we can pay for, and one that truly invests in the infrastructure needs of this country," he said. "And there's no doubt that Mississippi, like virtually every other state, could use federal support."
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm told CNN that Biden's preference is to pass the bill "in a bipartisan way," pointing to widespread support for infrastructure spending. "If you don't like a component of it, tell us how you would do it. What do you want to see in this bill?" she asked of Republicans.
"What we are proposing, what the president is proposing is bipartisan," Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said on CNN. "Vast — millions and millions of Republicans, Independents and Democrats understand the crises that they face, that we face as a nation, and want to go forward.
"Unfortunately, you have Republicans in the Congress who are moving very far to the right, who are not only ignoring what the American people want to see done," he said. "They are ignoring what people in their own party want to be done."