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Both sides willing to negotiate details of Biden infrastructure bill

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg made the case

 Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg made the case for the president's infrastructure plan during Sunday's political talk shows.  Credit: AP / Carolyn Kaster

WASHINGTON — With President Joe Biden set to meet with a bipartisan group of lawmakers on Monday to discuss his $2 trillion infrastructure proposal, leaders on both sides of the aisle indicated their willingness to negotiate on the details of the bill.

On the Sunday political talk show circuit congressional Republicans and Biden administration officials remained largely entrenched in their positions on what the size and scope of the final plan should look like, but both sides said there was room for negotiation.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, appearing on CNN’s "State of the Union," said: "We're going to negotiate. But we can't just sit here and let the clock run out, because the American people can't wait. This work can't wait."

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), among those slated to meet with Biden at the White House on Monday, told ABC’s "This Week" that Republicans are "willing to negotiate a much smaller package."

Top Democrats making the pitch for Biden’s infrastructure package on Sunday argued that public support for the sweeping plan would help usher its passage through a Congress currently controlled by a slim Democratic majority.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, asked on CBS’ "Face the Nation" what concrete proposals she would put forward to garner some GOP votes for the plan, said "public sentiment" would help woo votes from Republicans who so far have called for a narrower, less costly plan.

"Public Sentiment is everything," Pelosi said. "The public understands that the worst and most expensive maintenance is no maintenance, and we have to maintain our roads, our bridges, our mass transit. We have to upgrade our water systems, we have to build out our broadband for distance learning, and telemedicine and the rest of that."

Buttigieg also pointed to the general support among American voters for infrastructure investment when asked about concerns raised by congressional Republicans that some elements of Biden’s plan are not considered traditional infrastructure projects.

"To me, it makes no sense to say, ‘I would have been for broadband, but I'm against it because it's not a bridge. I would have been for eldercare, but I'm against it because it's not a highway.’ These are things the American people need," Buttigieg said of Republican concerns. "These are things that the president is putting forward a vision to get done, and again, these are things, remarkably, that command the support of the majority of the American people, Democrats and Republicans. So, at the end of the day, they can call it whatever they like, but we're asking them to support it because it's good policy."

A Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted days after Biden unveiled the first of a two-part infrastructure package on March 31 found the majority of those surveyed favored the key components of the first part of his infrastructure package. The poll of 1,005 adults, conducted on March 31 and April 1, found that 71% of those polled supported a plan to extend high-speed internet to all Americans, 68% supported Biden’s call to replace every lead water service pipe in the country, and 66% supported tax credits for renewable energy.

Republicans on Sunday's political talk shows continued to voice opposition to Biden’s plan, taking issue with the price tag and the president's call to raise the corporate tax rate to pay for the eight-year spending package.

Wicker said: "I can't think of a worse tax to put on the American people than — than to raise taxes on small-business job creators, which is what this bill would do."

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the No. 2 ranking Republican in the Senate, told "Fox News Sunday" he believed "there are Republicans who would vote" for a narrower infrastructure package.

"If they’re interested in roads and bridges and perhaps broadband, there’s a deal to be had there," Thune said.

Asked which concessions Republicans would accept to support Biden’s plan, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Utah), the No. 3 ranking Republican in the House, said the plan "would need to be fundamentally redone."

"It would need to be a different bill," Cheney told CBS’ "Face the Nation." "It would need to actually focus on infrastructure, not on so many of the additional Green New Deal spending priorities."

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, asked to address Republican concerns that the plan’s definition of infrastructure is too broad, told ABC’s "This Week," that infrastructure "evolves to meet the American people's aspirations."

"What is infrastructure? Historically, it's been: What makes the economy move? What is it that we all need to ensure that we, as citizens, are productive?" Granholm said. "So, we need roads. We need bridges. We need transmission. You need lights in people's homes and offices. You need to make sure that people can actually go to work if they have an aging parent or a child."

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