Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Thursday defended President Biden's sprawling economic spending measure, even though just a fraction of the $2 trillion being billed as an infrastructure package goes toward rebuilding the nation's crumbling roads and bridges.
"We're talking about roads and bridges, we're talking about rail and transit, we're talking about airports, we're talking about the grid," Buttigieg said during an interview on "America's Newsroom." "I don't know why anybody would say it's a mistake to invest in the grid after what we just witnessed in Texas."
Biden unveiled the first part of his infrastructure proposal — dubbed the American Jobs Plan — on Wednesday, laying out a $2.25 trillion, eight-year spending plan that will be paid for by raising the corporate tax rate to 28% from 21% and increasing the global minimum tax on U.S. corporations to 21% from 13%.
The plan calls for $621 billion in new spending on roads, bridges, rail, ports, waterways, airports, public transportation and electric vehicles.
Just $115 billion, or roughly 5.6% of total spending, would go toward modernizing 20,000 miles of highways, roads and main streets that are "in most critical need of repair," as well as repairing the most "economic significant large bridges" and roughly 10,000 smaller bridges, according to a fact sheet released by the White House.
The proposal also includes hundreds of billions of dollars for a slew of other initiatives, including $111 billion to rebuild the nation's water infrastructure, $100 billion to create new public schools and upgrade existing buildings, $213 billion to design more than 2 million affordable homes, $400 billion to bolster caregiving for elderly and disabled Americans, $174 billion to invest in electric vehicles and $100 billion to bring high-speed broadband internet to all Americans.
"It's time to prepare for the future," Buttigieg said. "The millions of jobs that will be created by this bill are because this bill looks to the future."
Still, the administration faces an enormous challenge in getting Congress to pass the multi-part infrastructure package, which will serve as the basis of Biden's "Build Back Better" plan.
"Since infrastructure really is a bipartisan priority, we'd love nothing more than to have a bipartisan vote on this in Washington," Buttigieg said.
But Republicans have already started to attack the White House's proposal, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday skewering it as a "trojan horse" for major tax hikes. At the same time, a group of moderate Democrats have signaled they will not support the bill – imperiling its passage – unless their party agrees to restore unlimited write-offs of state and local taxes, or SALT.
Repealing the $10,000 limit, however, would require Democrats to vote for something that's widely viewed as a tax cut for the wealthy in blue states like New Jersey and New York.
Progressive Democrats have also criticized the size and scope of the proposal, arguing that it doesn't go far enough in addressing climate change or other issues.
"This is not nearly enough," Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., tweeted on Tuesday. "The important context here is that it’s $2.25T spread out over 10 years."