Elaine Chao hints Biden could secure bipartisan infrastructure deal provided it’s not bloated

May 21, 2021Washington Examiner

by Sarah Westwood, Investigative Reporter | | May 21, 2021 11:24 AM

Former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said the Biden administration has orchestrated a “skillful” rollout of its infrastructure proposal, even though she said the plan is too bloated with “superfluous” programs to attract Republican support.

“I think this administration has been very skillful at rolling out their proposal and deploying the Cabinet secretaries to talk to their various constituent groups about this proposal, and they had a proposal ready from the transition,” Chao told the Washington Examiner.

She said the Biden White House’s more than $2 trillion infrastructure plan includes funding requests for things she doesn’t consider infrastructure. Republicans have criticized efforts to characterize welfare programs such as childcare subsidies and healthcare expansion as infrastructure programs.

“The question is, what is the proper role of government? What is the description of infrastructure?” Chao said. “And while these programs that are not related to transportation infrastructure may be worthwhile, should they be included in this particular bill?”

“The more complicated this bill gets, I think, the more partisan it will be,” she added. “If it were of a lower amount and it just adhered to the traditional explanations or description of infrastructure, the Biden administration would be able to get a lot of Republicans on board.”

The White House has been conducting outreach to Republican lawmakers they hope to persuade to support some version of an infrastructure plan, even as more liberal lawmakers urge the administration to ditch those efforts and push through a partisan bill.

Senate Democrats hope to use a procedural tool called reconciliation to pass a package with just 51 votes.

Chao, who helped spearhead an infrastructure proposal during the Trump administration that did not pass, said investment in traditional infrastructure is necessary.

“A lot of Republicans will agree with funding roads, bridges, ports, you know, transportation infrastructure, maybe even broadband and water,” she said.

“If it begins to go into other areas, if this is just a total new green deal kind of an infrastructure deal, then I think they will have problems getting Republicans on board.”

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