Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg testified before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure on Thursday in his first public event since his confirmation last month.
The Associated Press reports that Buttigieg is “warning that the country’s infrastructure needs exceed $1 trillion” as the secretary moves forward in his appeals to Congress for infrastructure needs. The Biden administration is preparing a $3-4 trillion spending package incorporating infrastructure funding and other priorities.
In his testimony to the committee on Thursday, Secretary Buttigieg said that there is opportunity at this current moment in time to provide funding for infrastructure needs. In written remarks, Buttigieg said, “I believe we have – at this moment – the best chance in any of our lifetimes to make a generational investment in infrastructure that will help us meet our country’s most pressing challenges today and create a stronger future for decades to come.”
Buttigieg noted the heartbreak of the pandemic “that has taken the lives of more than 535,000 Americans.” He added that “Relief is on the way” due to the American Rescue Plan recently passed by Congress. However, the secretary made the point that “there is near universal recognition that a broader recovery will require a national commitment to fix and transform America’s infrastructure.”
Buttigieg said that this is the time to create good jobs through infrastructure, as well as the time to repair structures and facilities such as “highways, roads, bridges,” and more. He said that infrastructure “has such strong bipartisan support” for “good reasons,” saying that everyone has a need “for reliable roads, railways, and air transportation.”
“Across the country, we face a trillion-dollar backlog of needed repairs and improvements, with hundreds of billions of dollars in good projects already in the pipeline,” he said.
Buttigieg commented on the difference between the United States’ infrastructure spending and other countries, saying, “We see other countries pulling ahead of us, with consequences for strategic and economic competition. By some measures, China spends more on infrastructure every year than the U.S. and Europe combined. The infrastructure status quo is a threat to our collective future.”
He called this moment in time “the best chance in any of our lifetimes to make a generational investment in infrastructure” that will aid the United States now and “create a stronger future for decades to come.”
Buttigieg argued that this is also a moment to “address major inequities — including those caused by highways that were built through Black and Brown communities, decades of disinvestment that left small towns and rural main streets stranded, and the disproportionate pollution burden from trucks, ports, and other facilities.”
The secretary addressed concerns over climate change, as well, saying that it is time for the U.S. “to improve the air we breathe” and “tackle the climate crisis by moving the U.S. to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, building a national EV charging network, and investing in transit, transit-oriented development, sustainable aviation, and resilient infrastructure.”
Buttigieg said that “transportation is the leading contributor to climate change” in the country, adding the negative effect that extreme weather has on infrastructure facilities. “Every dollar we spend rebuilding from a climate-driven disaster is a dollar we could have spent building a more competitive, modern, and resilient transportation system that produces significantly lower emissions,” he said.
His request comes at a time when Congress recently passed President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief plan and Republicans are hesitant to spend more, AP reports.
The Daily Wire reports that the package might be broken up into smaller pieces of legislation in order to get it through Congress. “Breaking the package into multiple bills likely means Democrats would have to pass much tamer legislation or use the nuclear option on the Senate filibuster, a move being championed by many Democratic lawmakers.”
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