Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg declared on Sunday that the Biden administration was “getting pretty close to a fish-or-cut bait moment” when it came to discussions on a bipartisan infrastructure spending bill, adding that Democrats can’t “go on forever” with Senate Republicans.
In his continued hope to get Republicans to buy onto his sweeping infrastructure package, President Joe Biden recently cut the price tag from $2.3 trillion to a $1.7 trillion proposal. Senate Republicans, led by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), countered last week with an offer of $928 billion—up from their initial $568 billion proposal but still far off from the White House’s goal.
With Democrats preparing to work on the infrastructure legislation “with or without” Republicans, Buttigieg was asked by CNN anchor Jake Tapper on Sunday how much longer the White House would keep negotiating with the GOP before deciding to go it alone.
“So, this week Congress is out of Washington, but it’s very much going to be a work week for us and for the conversations that are ongoing with Congress,” the secretary said. “By the time that they return, which is June 7, just a week from tomorrow, we need a clear direction. You know, it’s certainly encouraging to see the healthy conversations that have happened over the last days and weeks, but the president keeps saying inaction is not an option and time is not unlimited here.”
Buttigieg did offer up cautious optimism about the infrastructure talks, saying that the discussions with Republicans have been in “good faith” and that they’ve been having “really healthy negotiations.” At the same time, however, he also agreed with other Democrats that they could be reaching a breaking point if they can’t close the gap.
“I think we are getting pretty close to a fish-or-cut-bait moment,” he stated. “But I will tell you that, on the fishing side of things, the negotiations have been healthy.”
Buttigieg added: “There's a lot of conversations going on among members of Congress who have come forward with a lot of different ideas, in addition to the discussions that we have had with the group led by Sen. Capito. So, we believe in this process, but also very much agree that this can't go on forever.”