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White House expresses confidence second infrastructure bill will be approved

President Joe Biden reacts as he delivers remarks

President Joe Biden reacts as he delivers remarks on the passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill deal at the White House in Washington on Saturday. Credit: AFP / Roberto Schmidt via Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Top White House officials on Sunday expressed confidence that Congress will pass a second sweeping infrastructure package this month focused on child care, elder care and the environment, after lawmakers last Friday approved a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package to modernize the nation’s roads, railways and internet systems.

White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain, appearing on NBC’s "Meet the Press" touted the passage of the first bill, acknowledging that "it took a little longer to get that across the finish line," but said he expects the second measure, known as the Build Back Better Act, will pass when the U.S. House reconvenes next week.

"I think this bill is gaining momentum," Klain said. "We're going to get it passed. We’re going to get it signed. And most importantly, we're going to get to work for the American people."

Klain’s assertions come as House Democrats and Senate Democrats continue to negotiate the final details of the proposed $1.75 trillion package that is part of President Joe Biden’s two-tier infrastructure plan.

Progressive Democrats are pushing for the inclusion of programs such as paid family medical leave and allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices, but moderate Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who can tank the package with their votes in an evenly split Senate, have previously opposed such proposals.

Thirteen House Republicans, including Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-Bay Shore), crossed party lines to vote for the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which earlier in the year passed the Senate with 19 GOP crossover votes, but the party has voiced opposition to the second bill, arguing in part that its definition of infrastructure is too broad.

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), who voted against the $1.2 trillion bill, told NBC's "Meet the Press" when it comes to the second bill, he is "going to oppose it all the way along."

"I like infrastructure, to me, that's roads, bridges, airports, and seaports, Scott said, before arguing that the social spending plan doesn't go far enough to deal with traditional infrastructure.

Asked about the likelihood of the final package including the demands of progressives, Klain said: "I'm sure the Senate will make changes, that's the way the legislative process works, but we are going to get a very strong version of this bill through the House, through the Senate, to the president’s desk and into law."

White House Senior Adviser Cedric Richmond told CBS’ "Face the Nation" the administration was "very optimistic" there will be shovel-ready projects ready to launch in the next two-to-three months that will be funded by the $1.2 trillion hard infrastructure package.

The package includes about $685 million over five years to upgrade New York’s airports, including $31 million for Long Island’s seven airports. New York is also in line to receive $1.9 billion to repair or replace some 1,700 bridges in poor condition.

Asked about the timing of passing the second infrastructure bill, Richmond told "Fox News Sunday" "we need to get it done now."

"If you look at the 17 Nobel Prize-winning economists, they said that it will ease inflationary pressures, help with the supply chain and invest in the human capital in this country all at one time," Richmond said, referring to a letter signed in September by the group of Nobel laureates in support of Biden’s infrastructure plan.

Top Democrats making the rounds of the Sunday morning political talk show circuit lamented not passing the first of two infrastructure packages sooner, in time to possibly influence the outcome of elections last week that saw Republicans make gains in states won by Biden last year including New York, New Jersey and Virginia.

"I think congressional Democrats blew the timing," Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said on "Face the Nation." "We should’ve passed these bills in early October. If we had, it would have helped Terry McAuliffe probably win the [Virginia] governor's race."

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat who narrowly won reelection last Tuesday, told "Meet the Press" the erosion of Democratic support indicates "there’s a lot of hurt out there."

"There are a lot of kitchen tables that we need to connect more deeply with, and help folks get through this period, whether they lost a loved one, a job, a small business, they're frustrated by the ongoing pandemic or economic recovery, whatever it may be," Murphy said.

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