Buttigieg: Infrastructure Bill Won't Wrap by Memorial Day Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg receives a tour of an underground tunnel for the expansion of the Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport plane train tunnel at the Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Friday, May 21, 2021. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
By Sandy Fitzgerald | Monday, 24 May 2021 01:57 PM
The Biden administration wants "major progress" on a national infrastructure bill by Memorial Day, which is only a week away. Getting a bill through Congress and back to the president's desk by then, however, won't happen, Transportation Secretary Peter Buttigieg said Monday.
"We really need to get this done this summer, which is why we continue to want to see, even in just the next few days between now and the holiday, some real progress if we're going to pursue this path," Buttigieg said on CNN's "New Day."
But even with the push to complete the ambitious project, the White House wants a bipartisan infrastructure bill — something some Democrats doubt could happen.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said over the weekend that it's time to move on and pass a bill supported by Democrats as there is no "seriousness" on the side of the GOP to reach an agreement.
"The president feels strongly that we should seek to do this in a bipartisan manner, not at any cost as he often says, because inaction is not an option," Buttigieg said. "There's a real sense of urgency to move quickly. But we've been having, I think, productive and honest, frank conversations with at least one group of Republican senators who put forward their idea."
The sides "started out very far apart," Buttigieg added, but have moved closer, with the Biden administration removing a half-trillion dollars from Biden's original proposal.
Republicans have also rejected Biden's newest $1.7 billion proposal, saying there are too many differences between how the 2 sides define infrastructure.
"There is still a lot of daylight between us," Buttigieg said. "That's how negotiations work. We want to continue speaking with them. We want to see what they come back with and whether we have something to work with or not."
Biden's plan includes traditional infrastructure projects such as bridges and roads and focuses on climate change and social programs. The Republican counteroffer, coming in at $568 billion, called for an approach limited to more traditional infrastructure projects.
"Their original plan put forward something that was probably different than what they would have done in a business as usual context, but in our view, it was not nearly enough," Buttigieg said.
"It was about one-tenth of what we were proposing if you really line it up in apples to apples terms. The way negotiation works is you look at what you could do a little bit differently, and we looked at a different scope. We looked at moving some of the numbers closer to them and that's how we got that move of about half a trillion dollars."
Buttigieg said the Biden side of the argument has not had "a lot of fundamental red lines" except for 2.
"One, of course, is that the president is not willing to raise taxes on people making more than $400,000," and the other is that something has to be done about infrastructure as the current situation "can't go on forever," he said.
Buttigieg also commented on reports about the forced diversion of a Ryanair plane to Belarus and the detention of an opposition journalist who was on board.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has called for a full investigation and a convening of the International Civil Aviation Organization, a specialized agency of the United Nations, said Buttigieg, adding that the administration is "extremely concerned" about the incident.
He said that the U.S. must also assess whether its plans are safe flying over Belarus, and the government, international bodies, and the Federal Aviation Administration were examining that.