Tuesday , July 27 2021

Biden taps five Cabinet members to lead infrastructure messaging


“While most of the Cabinet will have a role in helping shape and press the jobs plan, today I’m announcing that I’m asking five Cabinet members to take special responsibility to explain the plan to the American public,” Biden announced during his first Cabinet meeting since being sworn in.

The five secretaries he appointed as his infrastructure emissaries: Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.

“Working with my team here at the White House, these Cabinet members will represent me in dealing with Congress, engage the public in selling the plan and help work out the details as we refine it and move forward,” Biden said during his short remarks in the East Room.

Later Thursday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the five secretaries “will be in charge of communicating with the public, communicating with Congress, communicating with mayors and governors, having discussions about different components of the bill.”

“Whether it’s broadband or different infrastructure components, the impact on businesses, these are the Cabinet members who will all play a role in this engagement,” she told reporters.

The meeting comes one day after Biden rolled out the first piece of his sweeping infrastructure proposal. The President made his $2 trillion infrastructure pitch on Wednesday in Pittsburgh, stressing his support of labor unions and his hope the investment would lift the middle class.

The proposal, called the American Jobs Plan, would heavily invest in rebuilding the country’s infrastructure and shift to greener energy over the next eight years. The White House plans to pay for the proposal by raising corporate taxes and eliminating tax breaks for fossil fuels, which was one of his core campaign promises. The White House says this tax hike would raise more than $2 trillion over the next 15 years.

Ahead of the Cabinet meeting, a White House official told CNN that Biden would keep a focus on the infrastructure plan — his top legislative priority.

The five Cabinet members tasked with evangelizing the plan will likely face the challenging task of garnering support from Republicans from Congress.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell recently said that he’d “fight them every step of the way because I think this is the wrong prescription for America.”

Responding to McConnell, Psaki pushed back during Thursday’s briefing.

“Does he disagree that our nation’s infrastructure is outdated and needs repaired? Does he disagree that one third of the country, who doesn’t have broadband access, should have access to broadband?” she asked of McConnell. “There are a lot of areas where there is agreement with across the political spectrum, from investment and infrastructure, doing more to be competitive with China, and what we’re really talking about here is how to pay for it.”

“We feel there are a lot of areas of agreement, and the President will certainly be inviting Republicans and Democrats here to the Oval Office to have discussions and meetings about the path forward to hear their ideas,” Psaki added.

White House chief of staff Ron Klain suggested in an interview with Politico on Thursday that like the American Rescue Plan, high public support will drive the passage of the infrastructure plan.

However, the American Rescue Plan, which provided trillions in coronavirus-related relief, passed without the support of a single Republican in Congress.

Pressed on whether he is open to using reconciliation to get the legislation through Congress, Klain reiterated a desire for bipartisanship, but placed more emphasis on getting it passed.

“What we want to do is get this passed,” he said, citing a larger conversation with members as the “first goal.”

He declined to “get into legislative tactics,” but said the White House would be bringing members of Congress to the White House after Easter.

He expressed hope for bipartisan process, but said the goal is to “deliver.”

CNN’s Betsy Klein, Kate Sullivan and DJ Judd contributed to this report.

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