Buttigieg Pledges to Support Biden's $2 Trillion Infrastructure Plan
By Ted Mann
WASHINGTON -- Former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg
pledged Thursday his support for President Biden's $2 trillion
infrastructure-rebuilding plan during a confirmation hearing before
a Senate panel.
The $2 trillion target is tied to Mr. Biden's goal to use
climate change as a wedge for economic development, focused on
rebuilding roads and bridges and expanding zero-emission mass
transit and electric-car infrastructure. In all, the administration
seeks to spend $7 trillion over a decade to combat climate change,
his campaign and third-party experts have said.
Mr. Buttigieg, Mr. Biden's nominee to lead the Transportation
Department, told the Senate Commerce Committee that he would pursue
the administration's goals to drive federal spending on roads,
rails and bridges.
"This is our opportunity to literally do the building part in
'Build Back Better,'" Mr. Buttigieg said, alluding to Mr. Biden's
Republicans, now in the Congressional minority, have begun to
express skepticism about federal spending after four years of
relatively robust highway spending packages under the Trump
In addition to talks about building infrastructure, said Sen.
John Thune (R., S.D.), "the other thing that enjoys bipartisan
popularity around here is not paying for it."
He told Mr. Buttigieg: "I know this isn't the place for you to
get specific about ways to pay for it. You'd be crazy to do that at
a hearing like this."
The committee didn't take a vote Thursday. If it recommends
approval of Mr. Buttigieg's nomination, the full Senate must still
vote to confirm his appointment.
Like Mr. Biden, and numerous politicians before him, Mr.
Buttigieg suggested that there might be bipartisan agreement to
invest in repairs and improvements to the country's highways,
railroads and other transportation infrastructure.
"We also have a lot of work to do to improve the infrastructure
in this country, a mission that will not only keep more people safe
but will grow our economy as we look to the future," Mr. Buttigieg
said. "Now is the time. And I believe we have a real chance to
deliver for the American people."
Infrastructure isn't as easy an issue as political candidates
and elected officials often say. Efforts by the staff of former
President Donald Trump to pivot to "infrastructure week" were a
running joke on Capitol Hill by the end of his four years in
And even former President Barack Obama's 2009 stimulus package
-- a massive spending injection intended to spur the country out of
recession that was overseen by Mr. Biden -- generated controversy
and gridlock over which infrastructure projects were deemed "shovel
ready" and which were derided as wasteful.
Mr. Buttigieg said his background as a small-city mayor would
inform his views on issues like improving railroad access in areas
outside the busy Northeast Corridor, and refining DOT grant
programs to be user friendly, especially for local governments that
lack the full-time planning and grant-writing operations of large
counties and cities.
As usual in confirmation hearings, he also handled more
parochial goals. Sen. Todd Young, (R., Ind.) secured a promise from
Mr. Buttigieg that he would return home to visit their mutual home
state. Sen. Roger Wicker (R., Miss.), the outgoing committee
chairman, got Mr. Buttigieg to commit to studying the revival of
Gulf Coast Amtrak train service, which has been out of commission
since Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005.
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D., Wash.), who will become chairman when
Senate leaders formalize their governing pact for the chamber,
focused on the fallout from two fatal crashes of the Boeing 737
MAX, which focused lawmakers' attention on the degree to which the
Federal Aviation Administration has outsourced some safety
certification procedures to plane manufacturers.
Mr. Buttigieg said he agreed on the "need to make sure engineers
at the FAA are in the driver's seat when it comes to safety."
When Ms. Cantwell pressed him, asking if he was "willing to make
changes in personnel, if necessary," Mr. Buttigieg replied,
Write to Ted Mann at email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
January 21, 2021 15:21 ET (20:21 GMT)
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