Senior Democrat ‘hot mic’ says GOP foot-dragging will force fast-track process for infrastructure

By | March 15, 2021

Sen. Ben Cardin, a senior Democrat on the committee responsible for crafting a surface transportation bill, in a “hot mic” moment told Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg Monday that Democrats will likely have to use budget reconciliation for their infrastructure plans, citing expected resistance from Republicans.

The comment from Cardin was captured by a “hot mic” on C-SPAN after an event with Buttigieg at a UPS facility in Maryland.

The details: “Ultimately it’s going to be put together similar” to the American Rescue Plan, the Covid bill just passed by Congress last week, Cardin said, with multiple committees crafting legislation which would then be stitched together. Democrats will “most likely have to use reconciliation,” he said, noting that Republicans will only “meet with you to a point.” Biden and Buttigieg have had several bipartisan meetings in the Oval Office, but several factors make earning Republican support for infrastructure legislation a challenge.

Buttigieg said he was “pretty process-agnostic. We just want it to work, and get through,” but that he’s “all ears” as lawmakers on the Hill are trying to figure out the sequence and pieces of legislation.

The timing: “We’ve got a clock on everything we’re doing, especially because the present surface reauthorization is up in September,” Buttigieg told reporters during the event.

“We’re not waiting until September in order to act. Conversations are taking place right now as you’ve seen, Oval Office meetings with the president, leaders from both parties and both Houses.”

The DOT head demurred on a specific timeline when asked if the plan would be unveiled in March. “I’ll let the president lead on the legislative priorities and sequencing but … these conversations are very much live,” he said.