By Devan Cole, CNN
Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg said on Sunday that there needs to be “clear direction” in infrastructure talks by the time Congress returns from recess next week, and called the negotiations “encouraging” ongoing on the general proposal of the administration while stressing that the citizens expect to act number soon.
“This week the Congress has left Washington, but it will be a working week for us and for the talks that are being held with the Congress. When they return, which is June 7, just a week from tomorrow, we need clear direction, “Buttigieg told CNN’s Jake Tapper on” State of the Union. “
“You know, certainly encouraging to see the healthy conversations that have taken place over the last few days and weeks, but the president goes on to say that inaction is not an option and time is not unlimited here,” he added. “The American people expect us to do something, we hope we deliver it.”
Secretary of Transportation comments come as the White House and Republicans in Congress remain closed on negotiations on the proposal, with President Joe Biden pushing for approval of a nearly $ 1 trillion package that would provide money for roads, bridges and other major projects. The president will miss the deadline he had set for Memorial Day for talks, and lawmakers plan to return to Washington early next week.
Last week, Senate Republicans made a $ 928 billion counter-offer to Biden’s $ 1.7 trillion proposal, even though his bid was less than the $ 1 trillion they had said Biden was in. open during its negotiations in the White House. Buttigieg told CNN Sunday that while Republicans “seem to philosophically agree that investing a trillion dollars is the kind of thing we need to do right now,” there is still a lot of “daylight.” between the two parties.
“Especially because the things we consider very important, from making sure we are causing a revolution in the electric vehicle and happening in the US with American workers on American soil, to the president’s commitment to make sure we eliminate 100% lead pipes in this country: we didn’t see that much in the counter-proposal, ”he said.
The administration, Buttigieg said, “is getting pretty close to a time to fish or cut the bait” in its negotiations, indicating that Democrats will be able to go it alone sooner rather than later if it doesn’t arrive. to an agreement.
“So we believe in this process, but we also strongly agree that this cannot continue forever,” he said.
Appearing later in “State of the Union,” Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said “waiting longer for Republicans to do the right thing is a wrong step.”
“We are about to lose the moment we have to respond to the needs of this country. We are at an important, important time, when people need government to work for them. So we have to respond to that moment with bold reforms … I would go ahead, “the New York Democrat told Tapper when asked if Republicans were negotiating the issue in bad faith.
“Democrats should respond and vote together now through reconciliation to achieve this and then move on to the rest of the bipartisan agenda,” Gillibrand added, referring to a process that facilitates the passage of legislation related to the expenditure, taxes and debt. .
Disputes so far go far beyond the overall cost of a potential package, with very different opinions on the scale of any potential compromise proposal and how it would be paid to continue to serve as the main obstacles. Biden has made it clear, both publicly and privately, to advisers and allies, that he considers it useful to reach a reduced bipartisan agreement, even if that means withdrawing elements from his initial infrastructure and jobs proposal of 2.3 trillions of dollars until a subsequent effort. But he has also made it clear that he is not willing to drastically reduce the full scope of his proposal.
The president will meet this week with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, a West Virginia Republican who leads the Senate Republican Party negotiating team. The senator said Sunday that she is optimistic of reaching an agreement.
“I think the president makes the decisions,” he told Fox News Sunday. “I think we are building these blocks towards a very good and solid infrastructure package that has bipartisan support. So we respond to what the president has said. Yesterday before yesterday he told me on the phone, “Let’s do this.” And I think that means he has his heart in it, we’ve had a bit of going back and forth with the staff that he retired a bit, but I think we’re softening those edges. “
Capito said he will not vote to overturn tax cuts made during the Trump administration to pay for the package, adding that Republicans are open to paying the bill through user fees for people which use hybrid and electric cars.
This story has been updated with additional details Sunday.
CNN’s Daniella Diaz and Chandelis Duster contributed to this report.