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Biden Cabinet fans out to sell $2T infrastructure bill

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg speaks at an

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg speaks at an event in Virginia on March 30.  Credit: Getty Images/Win McNamee

U.S. Cabinet secretaries and Democratic lawmakers pitched President Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure bill on Sunday, calling the plan momentous but also signaling a willingness to work with Republicans who oppose it.

On Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the plan was essentially dead on arrival. "I’m going to fight them every step of the way," McConnell said.

Biden that day tapped Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, and other Cabinet members to sell the plan to the American people.

In interviews on Sunday news shows, Democrats said that while Republicans in Congress may want to block the bill, spending on infrastructure has the support of a large swath of Republican and Democratic voters.

Buttigieg said on ABC's "This Week" that he was "having a lot of conversations with Republicans in the House and Senate who have been wanting to do something big on infrastructure for years. We may not agree about every piece of it, but this is one area where the American people absolutely want to see us get it done, where members on both sides of the aisle have been talking about getting it done for a long time."

He continued, "This is a once-in-a-lifetime moment. I don't think, in the next 50 years, we're going to see another time when we have this combination of a demonstrated need, bipartisan interest, widespread impatience and a very supportive president who is committed, by the way, not just to the infrastructure itself but to the jobs we're going to create."

To fund the spending, the Biden plan would have to boost the corporate income tax rate to 28% from 21%, reversing cuts set by former President Donald Trump. His plan would also establish a 21% minimum tax on global corporate earnings. Those increases would fully fund the plan over the next 15 years, the Biden administration has said.

On CNN, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said: "Republicans and Democrats historically have wanted to see infrastructure spending on broadband, which this bill includes, wanted to see infrastructure spending on water and removing lead from water systems, which this bill includes." Granholm said the package was "the biggest investment in America since FDR, since the New Deal."

Asked if the White House would accept zero Republican votes, Granholm said the administration was committed to reaching out to Republicans.

"Obviously the preference is to have this done in a bipartisan way. Eighty percent of America supports investing — over 80% — investing in infrastructure. That's Democrats and Republicans and independents. So, the president is very concertedly reaching out to Republicans to say, come to the table. If you don't like a component of it, tell us how you would do it," Granholm said.

Some Democratic House members, including Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), have said they will only back the bill if it repeals the limit on state and local tax deductions known as SALT. The 2017 federal tax law imposed a $10,000 cap on deductions for state and local taxes.

Biden’s plan doesn’t mention SALT. Suozzi said he has the votes in the House, where Democrats have a slim majority, to block Biden’s infrastructure bill.

Asked about House Democrats’ demand to include SALT, Buttigieg said on ABC: "We can look at any number of ideas. We know that this is entering a legislative process where we're going to be hearing from both sides of the aisle, and I think you'll find the president's got a very open mind. But time is of the essence."

Also Sunday, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican, expressed support for infrastructure upgrades, but said the Democratic proposal amounted to a "tax hike."

He said on CNN: "Well, there's no doubt that Mississippi could use our fair share of $100 billion. The problem with this particular plan, though, is, although the Biden administration is calling it an infrastructure plan, it looks more like a $2 trillion tax hike plan to me. That's going to lead to significant challenges in our economy. It's going to lead to a slowing GDP. And it's going to lose to — it's going to lead to Americans losing significant numbers of jobs."

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