Buttigieg defends social spending bill, 'optimistic' it will pass

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg appeared on ABC's "This Week" Sunday.

October 31, 2021, 9:08 AM

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is "very optimistic" that the Biden administration's social spending plan will pass the House and Senate next week, he said Sunday.

"We're very optimistic the president put forward this framework because he believes that it will pass the House in the Senate and can get to his desk, and as soon as it does, it's going to make such a difference in the lives of Americans," Buttigieg told ABC "This Week" anchor George Stephanopoulos.

Democrats failed to reach a deal on the social spending bill Thursday, which in turn pushed back a vote on President Joe Biden’s $1.1 trillion infrastructure bill, which he had hoped would pass before he left for his trip to the G20 summit in Italy.

House progressives, whose votes are needed for passage of Biden's domestic agenda, have insisted they need a clear commitment from moderate Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., to vote for the social spending package before progressives will pledge their votes to the infrastructure bill.

In a dear colleague letter that she sent out Thursday, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) reiterated members' support for the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework, even though the vote has been postponed.

"The good news is that most members who were not prepared for a yes vote today have expressed their commitment to support the BIF."

But even though there seems to be consensus among House members that they are prepared to pass both bills, Stephanopoulos pointed out to Buttigieg that a new ABC News/Ipsos poll shows that 69% of the public does not know much about what is in either, and 32% believe that both bills will hurt them if they became law.

Buttigieg responded by focusing on the family-focused aspects of the social spending bill, such as affordable child care, universal preschool and a possible child tax credit expansion. He addressed the audience directly saying, "[if] you have kids, nine out of 10 chance that you will personally benefit to the tune of hundreds or thousands of dollars from that child tax credit expansion."

Stephanopoulos pressed Buttigieg over paid family leave being dropped and asked if there’s any chance of bringing the provision back. Buttigieg himself just returned from paternity leave after he and his husband welcomed twins in August, and he has been outspoken about his believe that parents should be supported for taking parental leave.

"It's definitely something that we believe in, and so while it is not in this framework, we're gonna keep fighting for it,'' Buttigieg said.

Despite the changes, Buttigieg defended the current state of the social spending package and said there’s a "sense of urgency" to get the bills passed because "American people are impatient to see pro-family policies."

"It is the most transformative legislation for families, for health care, [and] for climate that we've seen, certainly in my lifetime, and it's going to be an extraordinary achievement," he said.

The secretary also mentioned an almost $12,500 discount on electric vehicles in an effort to "benefit the climate" and create more American jobs.

"So, look, whether you're a policy wonk or whether you're just trying to get through life raising your family, anybody who has ever driven on a road or a bridge, anybody who drinks water ... anybody concerned about internet access coming to a neighborhood near you, this bill is for you," Buttigieg said.

Even though Buttigieg is optimistic the social spending bill will pass, Stephanopoulos pointed out that progressive Democrats have yet to see a firm commitment from Sinema and Manchin to vote yes.

"Again, we're the closest we have ever been," Buttigieg said. "The president put forward this framework having talked to them and others throughout the progressive and moderate wings of our party, confident that it will pass."

"I know you’re confident, but what are the consequences of failure?" Stephanopoulos pressed.

"Look, we just have to get this done. And I’m not just saying that politically. ... We need bold action to set us up for success, not just getting through the winter but getting through the next decade and beyond," Buttigieg said.

ABC News' Quinn Scanlan contributed to this report.

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