WASHINGTON, DC – FEBRUARY 05: U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg speaks to Amtrak employees during a visit to Union Station on February 5, 2021 in Washington, DC.
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Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Sunday that Senate Democrats and Republicans must set a clear direction in infrastructure negotiations when Congress returns to Washington after the Memorial Day recess, signaling that the White House is patient with the bipartisan talks loses.
“By their return, on June 7th, just a week away from tomorrow, we need a clear direction,” said Buttigieg in an interview with CNN’s “State of the Union”. “The president keeps saying ‘inaction is not an option’ and time is not unlimited here. The American people expect us to do something.”
Senate Democrats plan to work out a full infrastructure package next month, with or without Republican support, to pass bill this summer.
The two parties are in ongoing talks but are not close to reaching an agreement on what the plan would include and how the government would pay for the much-needed investments.
Buttigieg said he believes the White House is “getting pretty close to a fish or cut bait moment” in bipartisan negotiations.
“The state of our infrastructure cannot go on like this, so the negotiations cannot go on forever,” he said.
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Republicans made a counteroffer to President Joe Biden on Thursday of $ 928 billion for infrastructure, roughly half the previous government proposal of $ 1.7 trillion. The White House originally tabled a $ 2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal.
Democrats and Republicans disagree on what constitutes infrastructure and how best to pay for the plan.
The Democrats have turned down an offer by the GOP to fund the plan through user fees, arguing that it could result in a tax hike for middle-class Americans who drive cars. Republicans have opposed the Democratic proposal to raise the corporate tax rate to at least 25% in order to pay for the plan.
The Democrats could ultimately pass the bill without the support of the GOP through the budget vote process that would require a simple majority vote in the Senate.
Senator Shelley Moore Capito, the Republican West Virginia who leads negotiations with the White House, said during a phone call with the President on Friday, Biden said “let’s do this” regarding the negotiations.
“We had a lot of back and forth with his staff to pull ourselves back a bit, but I think we’ll smooth those edges,” said Capito during an interview with Fox News Sunday.
“I think we can really compromise, absolutely because we’re both still in the game,” she said. “We know this is not easy.”