Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg stressed the importance of Congress passing new infrastructure and social spending bills, and expressed optimism that it may finally happen after much delay.
House Democrats have been battling internally over bipartisan infrastructure legislation, as progressives have persistently demanded that they also pass a massive social spending bill that has been the subject of much negotiation. According to Buttigieg, both could happen very soon.
“What I know is we’re the closest that we’ve ever been and it looks like we’re teed up to take major action soon,” Buttigieg said.
The social spending package, once valued at $3.5 trillion, is now down to a leaner $1.75 trillion after progressives and moderates agreed to cut programs including universal community college and paid family leave. That bill only requires a simple majority to pass in the Senate because it would be done through a process known as budget reconciliation, but moderate Democratic Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have said they still will not support it.
Buttigieg stressed the need to pass both bills, saying they are not just important to Democrats, but to Americans as well.
“You look at the need for action on climate before it’s too late, you look at the need to support our economy for the long run, to make our economy more competitive, to deal with issues like inflation,” he said. Buttigieg also said that “utterly transformational and historic” provisions such as child tax credits and universal preschool will be of great benefit to American families.
Later on, Buttigieg insisted that the social spending bill will help combat one problem plaguing the country: inflation.
“This bill will fight inflation,” he said. “The reason this bill will fight inflation, among other things, is that we have a drag on our economy in labor supply because a lot of parents aren’t going back to work because they can’t find child care.”
Buttigieg admitted that inflation remains a problem in the “short term” due to pandemic-related issues including supply chain problems, but that infrastructure improvements and pro-family programs will help in the long run.
Democrats had been scrambling to reach a deal on the infrastructure and social spending bills before President Biden’s trip to Glasgow, Scotland for a COP26 climate conference, but that event is set to begin Sunday and there is still no agreement in place.
“The president looked us in the eye and said, ‘I need this before I go represent the United States in Glasgow,'” Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., told “Fox News Sunday” one week ago. On Friday, Khanna did not appear concerned that this did not happen.
“If this takes another 10 days, why is that the worst thing?” he asked. “I mean, don’t we want to be careful and really get all the details right and then deliver this for the American people?”
Biden, however, told Democrats on Thursday that the next week is of crucial importance, and that it would “the House and Senate majorities and my presidency will be determined by what happens” in that time frame.
When pressed on whether he could guarantee that anything will pass this week, all Buttigieg could only repeat that “we’re the closest we’ve ever been,” and that Biden put forward the current framework because he believes Democrats can agree on it.