Pete Buttigieg defends sweeping infrastructure plan over ‘semantic debate’ amid Republican pushback

‘We can agree to disagree on what to call it. I’m still gonna ask you to vote for it’

Chris Riotta
Washington D.C.
Sunday 11 April 2021 21:07

Related: Biden gets heated defending infrastructure plan against GOP critics

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Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has defended a sweeping infrastructure plan heralded by the White House as a “once in a generation investment” into everything from the nation’s ailing roadways and bridges to broadband and long-term care.

The transportation secretary dismissed what he described as a “semantic debate” over components of the package which some Republican lawmakers have argued were not typically associated with infrastructure.

Speaking to CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday, Mr Buttigieg said: “This package, both in terms of the individual parts and as a whole, enjoy enormous support from the people, including Republicans.”

Mr Buttigieg suggested the discussion about whether or not components of the bill were infrastructure was a debate among pundits and politicians, while noting the widespread support for the bill.

“Here in Washington, folks are getting into this semantic debate. I very much believe that all of these things are infrastructure because infrastructure is the foundation that allows us to go about our lives. But, you know, if there are Senate Republicans who don’t agree, we can agree to disagree on what to call it,” the transportation secretary said, adding: “I’m still gonna ask you to vote for it.”

The comments come after Republican senators like Ted Cruz (R—TX) and other influential conservatives gawked at the proposal, posting tweets that mocked their Democratic colleagues for considering things like paid leave, childcare and caregiving components of national infrastructure. 

Infrastructure was a top focus across the Sunday news shows, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D—CA) saying “the door is open” for bipartisan negotiations on the current version of the bill.

As Mr Buttigieg spoke, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie joined ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos to argue that President Joe Biden was “lying” about the bill, which he described as “baloney”. 

“Here’s what’s not popular: lying is not popular,” Mr Christie said. “It’s not infrastructure, George!”

“If Donald Trump had come out and called a dog a cat, which is what Joe Biden’s doing, we would be outraged by the fact that he’s lying,” he continued. “But with Joe Biden, somehow it’s like ‘Oh, well, come on, it’s Joe.’ No no no no, it’s not true.”

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm also spoke to This Week about the $2 trillion plan and subsequent debate, saying: “What is infrastructure? Historically, it’s been what makes the economy move, what is it that we all need to ensure that we as citizens are productive.”

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