The Biden administration has once again alluded to the idea of using budget procedures to get around Republican opposition to the president’s infrastructure plan – with Pete Buttigieg referencing another path if negotiators advance by Memorial Day.
The Transportation secretary who has been involved in the negotiations spoke Monday, after a group of Republicans roundly rejected the latest offer by the administration – a trimmed down plan that still comes in at $1.7 trillion.
That offer, revealed Friday, is still far more than what a group of centrists Republicans have proposed of around $600 billion.
President Biden came out with a $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal, which the White House trimmed to $1.7 trillion in a counteroffer to Republicans
‘We continue to think there needs to be major progress by Memorial Day,’ Buttigieg told CNN on Monday.
‘All that is not going to happen by Memorial Day. But we really need to get this done this summer, which is why we continue to want to see, even just in the few days between now and the holiday, some real progress if we’re going to pursue this path,’ he added.
His comment comes after Democrats in the Senate explored the idea of using special budget reconciliation instructions that would allow the plan to get through the chamber on a simple majority vote – although it would require them to hold their entire 50-member caucus together.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) also floated the go-it-alone approach in remarks Sunday to CBS ‘Face the Nation.’
‘We would like bipartisanship, but I don’t think we have a seriousness on the part of the Republican leadership to address the major crisis facing this country. And if they’re not coming forward, we’ve got to go forward alone,’ he said.
He said it was ‘probably right’ to assume Democrats would need to use reconciliation.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, asked if the administration was ready to move ahead and ask Democratic leaders to act under reconciliation, responded: ‘We’re not quite there.’
Biden had marked off Memorial Day as the deadline for reaching an agreement.
His pressure came as the White House complained that Republicans, led by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, had not moved nearly far enough in talks.
Transportation Sec. Pete Buttigieg said there needs to be progress by Memorial Day
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki pushed Republicans to make a counteroffer. She spoke in a briefing room that now includes more reporters under revised covid restrictions
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) blasted the latest White House counteroffer in a statement. The White House said the ball is now in the GOP’s court
A joint GOP statement blasted the latest Democratic counteroffer.
‘The ball is in the Republicans’ court,’ White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Monday.
She complained that while the White House had come down $550 billion from an initial $2.3 trillion offer, Republicans had moved up only $50 billion.
‘If we came down by $550 billion and they came up by $50 billion, they have a ways more to go,’ she said.
On Friday, Republicans acknowledged the counteroffer, calling it ‘well above the range of what can pass Congress with bipartisan support.’
‘There continue to be vast differences between the White House and Senate Republicans when it comes to the definition of infrastructure, the magnitude of proposed spending, and how to pay for it,’ the statement continued.
‘Based on today’s meeting, the groups seem further apart after two meetings with White House staff than they were after one meeting with President Biden. Senate Republicans will further review the details in today’s counteroffer and continue to engage in conversations with the administration,’ they concluded.
Joining in the statement were Republican Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).
The standoff comes after Biden has revealed he will not include student loan forgiveness in his upcoming Budget, after pledging to cancel $10,000 from loans on the campaign trail.
Biden is due to announce his latest budget at the end of next week, and claims he has grown suspicious of wiping out the loans.
The shift in policy is a major blow for the more than 42 million Americans who have student loans.
He had been pressured by progressives in the Democrat Party including Elizabeth Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to forgive up to $50,000 in debt. Chuck Schumer, the Senate Majority Leader, was also in favor.
In an interview with the New York Times Friday, Biden said he had grown ‘suspicious’ of canceling the debt.
‘The idea that you go to Penn and you’re paying a total of 70,000 bucks a year and the public should pay for that? I don’t agree,’ Biden told the Times.
The White House has previously said Biden wanted to see Congress pass legislation to wipe away student debt, rather than through executive order.
The announcement marks a shift from the White House’s previous position last month when Biden’s chief of staff Ronald Klain said the president was considering canceling up to $50,000 in debt.
Klain told a Politico Playbook event that Biden has asked Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to figure out if the president has the legal authority to wipe out their balances.
In March, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said they were still ‘exploring options’ around student loan policy.
‘The President continues to call on Congress to cancel $10,000 in debt for student loan borrowers,’ she said.
‘That’s something Congress could take an action on, and he’d be happy to sign.’
Warren had previously called on Biden to wipe away the debt using executive order.
‘Biden-Harris can cancel billions of dollars in student loan debt, giving tens of millions of Americans an immediate financial boost and helping to close the racial wealth gap,’ Warren Tweeted in November, days after the election was called in Biden’s favor.
‘This is the single most effective executive action available for a massive economic stimulus.’