Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Sunday claimed President Biden’s $6 trillion budget proposal is “responsible” despite criticism from both Republicans and Democrats.
Buttigieg’s defense came during an appearance on Fox News Sunday when he was asked to respond to a warning by former Obama administration official Larry Summers that a number of Biden’s policies could cause inflation.
“This is a responsible budget and importantly all of the proposals for spending and investment in this budget are paid for,” Buttigieg said.
“We know that we need to make major investments in our roads and bridges and our education, in our health,” he added. “We can’t afford not to do these things because for decades, frankly, we’ve been disinvesting, we’ve been cutting in the things that make America strong.”
Host Shannon Bream also pushed back against the inclusion of health care, elder care and home repair in the president’s infrastructure plan, saying that while these are “laudable goals” they do not qualify as infrastructure.
“Okay, if you have a different category you’d like to put it in, that’s fine, we should still do it and we should do it as part of the American Jobs Plan,” Buttigieg said. “We think of it as infrastructure because infrastructure is the foundation that lets people participate in the economy.”
Buttigieg’s comments come after Biden released a proposed budget on Friday that threatens to push the national debt into new record highs. The budget includes $2.3 trillion for his American Jobs Plan.
In recorded comments at a CoinDesk conference that were released last week, Summers said that he has been “troubled by the policy posture” of the Biden administration and noted that inflation had helped elect Republicans in 1968 and 1980.
“Joe Biden has a historic opportunity to be a great president,” Summers said. “But I think they should learn the lesson of the Johnson administration’s errors that elected Richard Nixon and the Carter administration’s errors that elected Ronald Reagan.”
“We are printing money, we are creating government bonds, we are borrowing on unprecedented scales,” Summers said. “Those are things that surely create more of a risk of a sharp dollar decline than we had before. And sharp dollar declines are much more likely to translate themselves into inflation than they were historically.”
However, the transportation secretary argued that proposed tax hikes on corporations would pay for Biden’s budget proposal.
“Let’s make sure that corporations and the wealthy are paying their fair share, and we believe that’s going to raise the kind of revenue that we need in order to fund the proposals that the President’s put forward,” Buttigieg said. “Again, you look at something like the American Jobs Plan, the infrastructure vision that the President put out, the entire thing is paid for across 15 years. By year 16, deficits going down and he does it without asking one penny from the middle class.”
The White House has been in talks with Republican lawmakers for weeks on a potential infrastructure package compromise. On Thursday, Senate Republicans unveiled a $928 billion counteroffer to the president’s proposal.
Meanwhile, Biden’s most recent offer to Republicans had a $1.7 trillion price tag — $600 billion less than his original plan. He has called on the GOP to support at least $1 trillion in infrastructure spending.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) told CNBC that Republicans could make additional offers.
“We’re going to keep talking, and I understand the president is willing to keep talking,” he said on Thursday. “We’d like to get an outcome on a significant infrastructure package.”
Democrats and Republicans have not been able to agree on a price tag or how to offset the spending of any potential infrastructure package: Republicans have rejected the president’s proposal to raise corporate taxes. The GOP instead has said infrastructure costs can be covered by funds already allocated by Congress or with transportation user fees.