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The Biden administration’s infrastructure negotiations with Republicans are “getting pretty close to a fish-or-cut-bait moment” where Democrats may choose to go it alone, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Sunday.
“I think we are getting pretty close to a fish-or-cut bait moment,” Buttigieg told host Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union,” borrowing the phrase Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois).
“But I’ll tell you that on the fishing side of things, the negotiations have been healthy,” Buttigieg told Tapper. “There’s a lot of conversations going on… We believe in this process, but also very much agree that this can’t go on forever.”
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-West Virginia), the lead Republican negotiator on the bill, has floated a $928 trillion eight-year spending plan as a counteroffer to the Biden administration’s own $1.7 trillion offer.
Speaking to Fox News, Capito echoed Buttigieg’s optimism.
“I think we can get to real compromise, absolutely, because we’re both still in the game,” she said. “The president told me himself let’s get this done. We realize this is not easy.”
But Buttigieg in a separate appearance on ABC’s “This Week” warned the GOP plan lacked key investments such as public transit and veteran hospitals.
He accused Republicans of taking money out of COVID-19 relief to fund their counter-proposal.
“Remember that the rescue dollars — those went out to the cities, to states, to small businesses, rural hospitals, for schools,” he said.
“We continue to be interested in what might come forward in terms of other ideas, but haven’t yet seen one that, at least in my view, is as responsible as what the President’s put forward.”
The infrastructure plan would be funded by increasing the national debt — a move Buttigieg defended as “responsible budgeting” in his own Fox News appearance.
“What we know is we need to make a lot of these investments upfront in the same way that a responsible business or family might take out a longer term loan in order to fund an immediate home improvement or investment in a business,” he said.
“We’ve got to do these kinds of things right away so that we can collect the benefits of that in our lives, not just in dollars and cents terms, in the years to come.”
Buttigieg was resolute when pressed by host Shannon Bream about whether some social services should be included in the infrastructure package.
“We think of it as infrastructure because infrastructure is the foundation that lets people participate in the economy,” he said.
“Americans can’t wait for us to resolve the dorm room debate over which policies belong in which categories. They want us to just get it done.”
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