Transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg backs Biden’s infrastructure bill, says ‘we’re still coasting on infrastructure choices’ from the 1950s

Pete Buttigieg
Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg at a press conference in February.
  • Transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg is helping rally support for Biden's infrastructure plan.
  • Buttigieg said on Sunday the American Jobs Plan represented "a generational investment."
  • The plan aims for upgrades in everything from roads and bridges to public schools and airports.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

US Transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg on Sunday promoted President Joe Biden's $2 trillion infrastructure plan, making the case that the legislation would be transformational for the country.

During an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press," Buttigieg said the American Jobs Plan represented "a generational investment" that would produce "economic growth that's going to go on for years and years."

"Infrastructure is the foundation that makes it possible for Americans to thrive," he said. "And what we know is that foundation has been crumbling.

Buttigieg made the argument that the current transportation network, built up decades ago, has to meet the needs of a modern society.

"We're still coasting on infrastructure choices that were made in the 1950s," he said. "Now's our chance to make infrastructure choices for the future that are going to serve us well in the 2030s and onto the middle of the century when we will be judged for whether we meet this moment here in the 2020s."

Biden's massive plan includes $621 billion in transportation infrastructure investments, with direct funding for road and bridge repairs, improvements in Amtrak passenger train service, lead pipe repairs, port and airport funding, and public school improvements, among other long-awaited projects.

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California is seeking to have a bill passed sometime in July, but the legislation's fate also rests in the hands of the Senate, which the party only narrowly controls.

While Biden is seeking Republican input on the bill, Democrats have not ruled out passing an infrastructure package through the reconciliation process, which would only require a party-line vote.

Read more: Here are 9 hurdles Biden's infrastructure plan would have to overcome in Congress before it can become law

In order to pay for the plan, Biden hopes to raise the corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent, which congressional Republicans vehemently oppose.

GOP Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky last week said that in its current form, Biden's infrastructure bill will be a hard sell for his caucus, especially if it is funded with "a combination of massive tax increases on businesses and individuals, and more borrowing."

"I think that package they're putting together now, as much as we would like to address infrastructure, is not going to get support from our side," he said.

GOP Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri said on ABC's "This Week" earlier on Sunday that a smaller infrastructure bill could be "a bipartisan, easy win" for the president.

"The other 70 or so percent of the package that doesn't have very much to do with infrastructure, if you want to force that in a partisan way, you can still do that," he added.

Buttigieg, along with Housing and Urban Development secretary Marcia Fudge, Energy secretary Jennifer Granholm, Commerce secretary Gina Raimondo, and Labor secretary Marty Walsh, have been tasked with helping rally support behind the plan.

Buttigieg emphasized during the Sunday interview that Biden's plan would not only repair aging US transportation networks, but would strengthen the country's economic standing and position it as a leader on climate change.

"America will be much more economically competitive, we'll be stronger in terms of leading the world because of the research and development investments that are here, and we will be on track to avoid climate disaster because of the provisions for things like electric vehicles," he said.

He added: "Those electric vehicles that more and more people around the world are driving will be increasingly made in America by union workers. This is what you get for planning for the long term."

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