“The transportation bill, I think, needs to be a transportation bill, not a Green New Deal,” said Representative Sam Graves of Missouri, the top Republican on the committee. “It needs to be about roads and bridges, and I hope that as this committee works on our next major bill, that we remember to prioritize transportation infrastructure.”
It remains unclear whether top Democrats, with slim majorities in both chambers and control of the White House, will be willing to curtail their ambitions to satisfy Republicans. They have refused to rule out using a fast-track budget process, known as reconciliation, to bypass Republican opposition and the 60-vote filibuster threshold in the Senate to advance Mr. Biden’s infrastructure initiatives on strictly party-line votes.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said Democrats would pursue a bipartisan legislative package but would have to “make a judgment” about how to accomplish more ambitious goals related to addressing climate change and economic inequality that Republicans might not support.
“One of the challenges that we face is we cannot just settle for what we can agree on without recognizing that this has to be a bill for the future,” she said. Among the specific proposals she said she favored was electrifying the U.S. Postal Service fleet.
Repeatedly pressed by Republicans for a commitment to compromise, Mr. Buttigieg assured lawmakers that “the president strongly prefers a bipartisan approach, and so do I,” and observed that he had “yet to see a Republican bridge or a Democratic pothole.”
That support, however, will most likely hinge on both the scope of the package put forward by Democrats and the mechanisms for paying for the legislation. On top of passing the dozen annual spending bills needed to keep the government funded in 2020, Congress approved more than $3 trillion in emergency spending to address the economic and health toll of the pandemic.
Early in the hearing, Republican lawmakers interrogated Mr. Buttigieg on how the administration planned to pay for such a large spending bill, while raising concerns about whether funds would be distributed equally across the country. Representative Don Young, Republican of Alaska, pressed Mr. Buttigieg on whether the Biden administration had a strategy to pay for more than a trillion dollars in spending needs.