After clearing a crucial procedural hurdle over the weekend, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said on Sunday that he hopes the Senate will pass a bipartisan infrastructure plan “within days, probably within hours.”
Buttigieg expressed optimism about the $1.2 trillion bill, which contains $550 billion in additional spending, after senators convened on Saturday to break a filibuster and conclude months of discussion.
“The state of play looks good,” Buttigieg said during an appearance on Fox News Sunday. “The Senate is working through this amendment process. There’s still a lot of procedure to be gotten through, but we are within days possibly, within hours of seeing this historic legislation that’s going to get us better roads and bridges, better ports and airports, a better future for our economy and creating millions of jobs.”
On Saturday, 18 Republicans joined the 50 Senate Democrats in voting to shut down debate on the bill and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the chamber would reconvene on Sunday to resume consideration.
“We’ve been working hard all day on amendments and hopefully we can come to some agreement tomorrow but the time is burning as we go forward,” said Schumer.
Judd Deere, a representative for Sen. Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn., said he would not consent to speed up the final passage of the bill, meaning additional amendment votes could draw the voting process out until as late as Tuesday.
“He will not consent to accelerate this package that adds to the deficit. The Senator is not objecting to votes on amendments, but the body should follow regular order as it works to complete this legislation,” Deere said.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the bill will add $256 billion to the national debt over the next decade.
Buttigieg said on Sunday that the law includes measures for paying for itself in responsible ways, and that it would not have received the Republican support it has so far if that were not the case.
“The pay-fors that are in this bill are appropriate for a bill that’s going to grow the economy and grow U.S. productivity,” Buttigieg said.
Buttigieg added that the “cost of doing nothing” to improve America’s infrastructure would ultimately be greater than the cost of the bill itself.
“You know we have another deficit that’s not being talked about enough right now, and that’s the infrastructure deficit,” he said.
The bill has also been linked to a budget resolution outlining a $3.5 trillion infrastructure proposal, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., stating that the House will not vote on the bipartisan bill until Senate Democrats pass the more expanded spending bill.
Buttigieg described the initiatives on Sunday as “two independent packages” that are “absolutely both part” of President Joe Biden’s vision, but urged senators to vote on them on their own merits.
“I would encourage legislators to vote for policies they think are good and vote against policies that they disagree with,” he said. “There is a path to do that for the Republicans, for example, who are with us on the infrastructure bill, not so sure about the other piece. And of course, the timeline will continue to develop, but my hope is that this will be voted on its merits.”