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Buttigieg acknowledges 'daylight' between White House, GOP on infrastructure

Transportation Secretary Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegButtigieg: Bipartisan deal on infrastructure 'strongly preferred' OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden ends infrastructure talks with key Republican | Colonial Pipeline CEO grilled over ransomware attack | Texas gov signs bills to improve power grid after winter storm Biden ends infrastructure talks with key Republican MORE 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. 

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The White House on Friday reduced President BidenJoe BidenFormer Rep. Rohrabacher says he took part in Jan. 6 march to Capitol but did not storm building Saudis picked up drugs in Cairo used to kill Khashoggi: report Biden looking to build momentum for Putin meeting MORE’s proposal by $550 billion to $1.7 trillion, countering Senate Republicans who, led by Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoGOP senator introduces constitutional amendment to ban flag burning Biden fails to break GOP 'fever' Pelosi: 'No intention' of abandoning Democrats' infrastructure goals MORE (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 SandersBernie SandersSanders won't vote for bipartisan infrastructure deal Bipartisan infrastructure deal takes fire from left and right Politics of discontent: Who will move to the center and win back Americans' trust? MORE (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 ManchinJoe ManchinIn Congress, what goes on behind closed doors? Jayapal to Dems: Ditch bipartisanship, go it alone on infrastructure Harris discusses voting rights with advocates in South Carolina MORE (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. 

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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 RichmondCedric RichmondTrey Gowdy sets goal of avoiding ideological echo chamber with Fox News show The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden faces pressure amid infrastructure negotiations Buttigieg acknowledges 'daylight' between White House, GOP on infrastructure MORE 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.