Buttigieg acknowledges ‘daylight’ between White House, GOP on infrastructure

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg acknowledged Monday that there remains “a lot of daylight” between the White House and Republican senators in ongoing negotiations regarding a potential bipartisan agreement on infrastructure.

“The president feels strongly that we should seek to do this in a bipartisan manner, [but] not at any cost. As he often says, inaction is not an option and there is a real sense of urgency to move quickly but we’ve been having, I think, productive and honest, frank conversations with at least one group of Republican senators who put forth their idea,” Buttigieg said in an appearance on CNN. 

“We started out very far apart, we’ve moved closer … there is still a lot of daylight between us. That’s how negotiations work. We want to continue speaking with them. We’ll see what they come back with and whether we have something we can work with or not,” he continued. 

The White House on Friday reduced President Biden’s proposal by $550 billion to $1.7 trillion, countering Senate Republicans who, led by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (W.V.), have put forth a $568 billion proposal. 

Republicans thus far have reacted coolly to the counteroffer and there remain significant disagreements on the size of the package, the definition of infrastructure and the means with which to pay for the investments. There had already been doubts about the prospect of a bipartisan deal on infrastructure, and hope for a breakthrough faded further given the recent developments.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said Sunday that Democrats would likely need to resort to budget reconciliation to pass a bill without Republican support.

“We would like bipartisanship, but I don’t think we have a seriousness on the part of the Republican leadership to address the major crises facing this country. And if they’re not coming forward, we’ve got to go forward alone,” Sanders said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

But doing so would require Biden to get almost every House Democrat to vote in favor of a bill and every Senate Democrat on board. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who Biden met with recently, has expressed concerns about the price tag of Biden’s overall agenda as well as his proposal to raise the corporate tax rate to 28 percent to pay for the infrastructure investments. 

Buttigieg reiterated Monday that the Biden administration wants to see “major progress” in negotiations with Republicans by Memorial Day — which is one week away — suggesting that if there isn’t significant movement, Biden could abandon those discussions and go the reconciliation route. 

White House senior adviser Cedric Richmond said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday that Biden would “change course” if inaction on infrastructure seems “inevitable.” 

The White House says Biden wants to see a package passed by summer, an aggressive timeline particularly given the August recess period. 

As part of the counterproposal last week, the White House offered to reduce funding for broadband expansion as well as proposed investments in roads, bridges and other major infrastructure projects. The White House also proposed removing investments in research and development, supply chains and manufacturing and shifting them into other ongoing bipartisan legislative efforts. 

At the same time, White House officials raised concerns about investments left out or underfunded in the Republican proposal, like funding for electric vehicles, veterans’ hospital repairs and an expansion of home health care. 

A Capito spokesperson called the counteroffer “well above the range of what can pass Congress with bipartisan support” and said the two sides seemed “further apart” following a staff meeting on Friday than when Republicans met Biden in the Oval Office the week prior.  

Tags Bernie Sanders Cedric Richmond economy Infrastructure Joe Biden Joe Manchin Pete Buttigieg Shelley Moore Capito Transportation White House

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