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Can President Biden Still Get A Bipartisan Deal On Infrastructure?


For more on why bipartisan infrastructure talks have hit a major roadblock, we turn now to Republican Congressman Carlos Gimenez of Florida. He's a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Congressman, good morning. Thank you for joining us.

CARLOS GIMENEZ: Good morning. It's my pleasure.

FADEL: So why don't we just start with what we just heard from the transportation secretary? And he really seems to lay blame on why this has stalled on the Republican group, an unwillingness to compromise on the dollar amount enough. How do you respond to that?

GIMENEZ: Well, look. I mean, I guess is the definition what's big and bold, I guess. And we've now started saying that a trillion dollars is not big and bold. I mean, I think this country's in trouble. And so a trillion dollars is a thousand billion dollars. And I think that, you know, we've had - we've had discussions, some senators and even, you know, the group - the Problem Solvers and my side, you know, have put forward over a trillion dollars in infrastructure. That's a heck of a lot of money. You know?

And so they - the problem was that the Biden administration started out with $2.3 trillion for this package. Some of the stuff in it was - has nothing to do with infrastructure. You know? How - why - you know, $400 billion in order to pay for elderly, you know, day care or health care - or not health care, but, you know, elderly care and have it unionized. That's got nothing to do with that structure. Republicans are focused on infrastructure, and we want roads and bridges. We - you know, we also, at least in my - from my perspective, we can also have needed investments in bringing our supply chain back to the United States. And so some of the things that have passed over on the other - the Senate side I think are good. And that we can - we can definitely support that. And so - but, you know, 2.3 trillion for stuff that's - a lot of it's got nothing to do with infrastructure - that's something we just can't support.

FADEL: Now, the White House has said that they were willing to compromise quite a bit by coming down about a trillion and have talked about expanding the idea of what infrastructure is to include human infrastructure. I wonder, though - what, with negotiations breaking down between President Biden and Senator Capito, will it be any different with a new bipartisan group? I have to ask you, is a bipartisan deal really still possible?

GIMENEZ: Yeah. Do I think it's possible? Yes. Do I think it's possible over on the House? I have my doubts about that. I think that on the House side, I think the rules are somewhat different. And I think that the Democrats are probably going to put forward their plan and pass that through the House on a strictly - you know, on a partisan basis. And then - but that plan won't go anywhere in the Senate because over there, their rules - and it seems that over on the Senate, at least, you know, there's more willingness to be, you know, bipartisan on that side of the - that side of Congress. And so...

FADEL: Because it's more necessary.

GIMENEZ: Yeah. Yeah. Excuse me?

FADEL: Because it's more necessary in the Senate?

GIMENEZ: I just think in the Senate, they have different rules. And, you know, they have senators that are not willing to, you know, bust the filibuster. They want to be more bipartisan there in the Senate. I think on the House side, Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats, they don't have to be bipartisan. They can be partisan because the rules are somewhat different. And even with a five - just a five-vote majority, if you get everybody lined up on your side, you get you get your 218 votes. I think right now we need 216 votes. If you have the 216 votes which the Democrats if everybody votes with them - votes with the package, then they pass. And a lot of the things that have passed here on the House side have been strictly partisan votes where it's like 220-210. And that's not the way, you know, that we should be doing business. I'm a freshman. Apparently, that's not the way that things happened in the past, but it's the way that things are happening right now.

FADEL: Well, in the past, the Republican Party has also bypassed the filibuster. But I want to ask you about Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer saying he was willing to do that. And that - and I wonder if the Republicans are willing to give on anything to make sure they're not left behind in this process.

GIMENEZ: Well, I think - look, I think initially, I mean, our counteroffer is something around 500 billion, 600 billion. And so there has been, you know, movement on the side of the Republicans. But no, I don't think that we're going to budge on an infrastructure program that is - that goes outside of infrastructure.


FADEL: That was Republican Congressman Carlos Gimenez of Florida.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.