Secretary Pete says infrastructure and reconciliation bills are ‘linked in people’s lives’ but not necessarily linked for passage

Pete Buttigieg
Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg. AP Photo/Evan Vucci
  • Biden backtracked on his claim that an infrastructure and reconciliation bill must pass together.
  • Transportation Sec. Pete Buttigieg agreed, saying the bills are “linked in people’s lives” if not in Congress.
  • Democrats still want to see the bills passed together despite GOP opposition.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden reached an agreement last week with a bipartisan group of senators on a near $1 trillion infrastructure plan, a deal that cut over half of the president’s initial proposal on “hard infrastructure” like roads and bridges, not to mention care-economy measures from his American Families Plan.

Biden said at the time that the bipartisan plan will have to pass alongside a reconciliation bill, but he quickly backtracked on those claims after GOP outrage. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg worked to clarify Biden’s comments in an MSNBC interview on Tuesday.

“Is it going be linked in the sense of this being one single piece of legislation that moves all at once? No, I don’t think it is,” Buttigieg said. “Is it going to be linked in terms of different members of Congress caring about getting them both done? Of course.”

“I mean, they’re linked in people’s lives,” he added.

In a Thursday press conference after announcing the agreement, Biden said the bipartisan deal only represented “one half” of his economic plan, and he wanted to get to work “right away” on care-economy proposals that would be included in a reconciliation bill that would not have GOP support. He promised the two bills would move “in tandem.”

“For me, investment in our physical and human infrastructure are inextricably intertwined,” Biden said. “Both make us stronger.”

Republican lawmakers were quick to denounce the idea of an infrastructure and reconciliation bill together, even though they have less votes than Democrats in the Senate and therefore can’t block a reconciliation bill via filibuster, with Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham tweeting on Friday: “No deal by extortion!”

Also, despite Biden’s walkback, many Democratic lawmakers remain adamant in passing a reconciliation bill alongside the bipartisan infrastructure plan.

“There ain’t going to be an infrastructure bill unless we have the reconciliation bill passed by the United States Senate,” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi told reporters on Wednesday.

Whether Democrats can succeed in passing an infrastructure and reconciliation bill remains uncertain. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell released a statement saying Biden had “appropriately” reversed course from his comments on Thursday linking the two bills, but demanded Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Pelosi should also “walk-back their threats” to only move the bipartisan agreement and a Democrat-only package in tandem.

Buttigieg reassured in his Tuesday interview that even though the bills might not be passed together, the Biden administration is still committed to Democratic values, such as raising taxes on the wealthy.

“We’re not going to stop being Democrats,” he said.