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Buttigieg: 'Lots of daylight' between Biden, GOP on infrastructure

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, seen in April, gave

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, seen in April, gave an update on Sunday morning talk shows on the White House infrastructure talks with Senate Republicans. Credit: Pool via EPA / Stefani Reynolds

WASHINGTON — With President Joe Biden and the Senate’s lead GOP negotiator set to resume infrastructure talks Monday, there remain "lots of daylight" between them over the scope of the package, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Sunday.

Buttigieg, appearing on CBS’ "Face the Nation," said while there continues to be "a lot of goodwill" in the discussions between the White House and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), a counteroffer by Senate Republicans on Friday "did not meet the president’s objectives in terms of what we need to do for a generational investment."

When asked about the progress of negotiations, Buttigieg said: "Lots going on right now, but still lots of daylight, honestly, between us and our Republican friends."

Biden, who initially pitched a $2.3 trillion hard infrastructure bill to modernize the nation’s transportation and information systems, has since trimmed his proposal to $1.7 trillion in an attempt to garner support from congressional Republicans. Republicans recently increased their proposal from $568 billion, which they pitched in April, to $928 billion.

Capito, the ranking Republican on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, offered to increase that figure by $50 billion on Friday, according to a White House readout of the meeting. The White House rejected the proposal, saying in a statement "the current offer did not meet [Biden’s] objectives to grow the economy, tackle the climate crisis, and create new jobs."

Capito did not issue a response on Friday, but congressional Republicans have pushed back on the scale of the plan and Biden's drive to increase the corporate tax rate to pay for the plan, arguing any increase would make the United States less competitive with other countries.

Buttigieg, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo made the rounds of the Sunday morning political talk shows, urging Republicans to act on Biden’s plan and asserting that the president preferred to reach a bipartisan deal, rather than using the Senate’s budget reconciliation process. Reconciliation would allow Biden's proposal to pass without the 10 GOP votes needed to avoid a filibuster.

"We've seen a lot of Republicans, certainly around the country, and a lot of Republicans in office, stating their interest in doing something real on infrastructure," Buttigieg said. "We just have to see if we can actually get it into enough of an overlapping consensus that we can build on together because the president strongly prefers a bipartisan approach."

Raimondo, appearing on ABC’s "This Week," said: "Folks want a bipartisan deal. If we don't get there, then we'll consider other options."

"I have spoken with many legislators in the Senate — Republican and Democrat — there is broad desire to have bipartisan agreement," Raimondo said. "That is good for the country. The president is leading us to … continue to stay at the table. So we won't do this forever. But right now, there are good-faith efforts on both sides and we're going to continue the work of … doing our job and trying to get a bipartisan agreement."

Granholm told CNN’s "State of the Union" that "there will be action. We’re just hopeful that we can see it in a bipartisan way that would be good for the country."

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a critical swing vote who has raised concerns about clean-energy components of Biden’s plan, told "Fox News Sunday" that he is "very confident" that a bipartisan deal will be reached.

"There's a lot that's been done with the COVID bills that we put out that basically overlap in some areas of infrastructure, but there's a lot more that needs to be done, and I think we can come to that compromise to where we'll find a bipartisan deal. I'm very, very confident of that," Manchin said.

Despite the push for a bipartisan deal, the White House on Friday announced that House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) will introduce Biden's current infrastructure proposal for committee markup on Wednesday. The move is a key first step in advancing the proposal for a full vote before the Democratic- controlled House.

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