The transportation secretary defended the Biden administration’s broad plans in a hearing as Democrats laid the groundwork for legislation and Republicans expressed skepticism.
Pete Buttigieg, the transportation secretary, urged Congress on Thursday to make a “generational investment” to improve the nation’s transit and water systems and address climate change and racial inequities, as Democrats began laying the groundwork to pass sweeping infrastructure proposals that could cost $3 trillion to $4 trillion.
Mr. Buttigieg’s inaugural testimony before a key House panel highlighted not only the enormous stakes of the Biden administration’s impending pair of infrastructure proposals, which could help President Biden deliver on a number of campaign promises and reshape the country’s economic and energy future, but also the hurdles ahead. Republicans at the hearing grilled Mr. Buttigieg over how to pay for the plan and signaled that they would not support any legislation that went much beyond the nation’s roads, bridges and waterways. Mr. Biden’s proposals envision far more than that: One would address physical infrastructure projects and development, including clean energy and other measures to take on climate change, and the other would make investments in child care, education and caregiving.
In the first news conference of his presidency, Mr. Biden confirmed on Thursday that rebuilding “infrastructure, both physical and technological,” was his next major task, saying it was necessary “so that we can compete and create significant numbers of really good-paying jobs.” He mentioned repairing roads and bridges, replacing aging pipes that leach lead into water and helping the United States close an infrastructure-spending gap with China.
Mr. Buttigieg told lawmakers on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee that at least $1 trillion was needed in infrastructure improvements to the nation’s roads, highways, bridges and transit systems. He painted such an investment as an opportunity to address climate change, racial justice and competition with China.