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President Joe Biden's infrastructure deal announced Thursday is a $953 billion plan that is the product of months of negotiation with Congress, including Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia. Warner was one of 21 senators to negotiate the bipartisan plan announced Thursday, and was also at the day's White House meeting with the president. He joins Judy Woodruff to discuss the deal.
Democratic Senator Mark Warner of Virginia was one of 21 senators to negotiate the bipartisan infrastructure framework that was announced today. Senator Warner was also at the White House meeting today with the president.
And the senator joins me now.
It's so good to see you again.
Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA):
Thank you, Judy.
It is not often, Senator Warner, that we see Republicans and Democrats agreeing on anything. How significant was this announcement?
Sen. Mark Warner:
Well, I think it was very significant.
I think it showed, again, that Joe Biden knows how Congress works. His White House team was involved with the 10 of us who were really engaged on a daily basis for the last couple of weeks. And both sides had to give up certain things they wanted.
But the product we have, $576 billion of new federal spending on infrastructure, is a record investment. And we're not just talking about roads and bridges. We're talking about broadband. We're talking about resiliency for coastal communities from rising sea level. We're talking about making our grid a lot smarter.
We're even — we're even including investments for electric vehicle charging stations, electric buses. And, frankly, the whole bus industry is going to go electric. Are they going to be made — just think about all the school buses. Are they going to be made in China, or are they going to be made here?
We have taken a major down payment on all of these items. And I would just point out very quickly that this is not — this is a big deal, but I would point out, just two weeks ago, the Senate, in a bipartisan fashion, put together a $250 billion bill to deal with China and take on issues like semiconductors.
And I will remind your viewers that I came back on your show back in November and December, when this same, for the most part, bipartisan group came up with the last COVID package.
So, I agree there's a lot of places we're pretty dysfunctional, but, at least on this item, I think we have made great progress.
And, Senator, we are now seeing, and as — we just spoke with Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, who underlined this for us — the president is insisting that he's only going to go along with this bipartisan plan if he also gets a big package of spending through the so-called reconciliation method.
That means 50 Democratic senators are going to have to sign on to that. We're already hearing from the Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, who is saying the president has reneged on what he originally said.
What do you say to Republicans who are looking at this?
Well, as somebody who sat in the White House today with the president, the president made absolutely clear that he supported this package and wanted it done.
He also made very clear to all of us — and I'm on the Budget Committee, so I will be in the middle of this one as well — that there were a whole lot of things that the president wanted on issues like childcare, on human capital investment, on cleaner energy tax credits that he didn't get in this legislation, and that he was still going to fight for those.
So, there was no — there was no mystery that there was going to be another issue to be dealt with, and that there are certain things, like the fact American businesses now pay the lowest percentage of corporate taxes of any of the 35 industrial nations. I was a business guy for a long time before I went into politics. But being the bottom of the barrel in terms of some businesses paying their fair share, that's not right.
So I'm ready to roll up my sleeves and say, where can we make our tax code fairer? And what are some of the other items…
… that didn't get included in the infrastructure package that will come back in reconciliation? I think it was just an acknowledgment of reality.
I would love to have some of my Republican friends deal with the reconciliation issues as well. But we went into this infrastructure conversation where they had already said, we're not going to touch taxes in any way. It's a little hard to talk about new spending when you don't touch taxes.
Two quick questions, but important ones.
One is, do you believe there will be 50 senators to support this spending package that the president says he has to have, or this doesn't go forward?
I think there will be 50 senators that will support a plan to raise some additional revenues and take on parts of the president's agenda.
I don't think there may be 50 senators that will agree to some of the numbers that are being thrown around by some of my more progressive colleagues. But I think they understand that. You know, that's part of this next negotiating process.
And in terms of Republicans, are they going to stick with this agreement once they see that it has to be accompanied by this big spending measure that's passed only with Democratic votes?
Well, Judy, I have been at this for weeks on end. It's been a lot of hours.
There's never been any doubt that we were going to come back to reconciliation. As a matter of fact, one of the arguments that the Republicans made was, gosh, guys, let's do this in a more reasonable fashion. Let's do this with the kind of policy agenda that they can agree to, because, if they don't, as one Republican senator said, I had a — my negotiating position was a little bit tough if I say no and you guys are just going to go off and do it on your own in a much more extreme way.
So, there was no lack of understanding that there was going to be a second step. Whether Leader McConnell will try to torpedo this effort, I hope not, because I think, going forward, I think we're going to have many more than 11 Republican senators who we have got signed up. I think we will get 20 or 25.
I think that's important for the American public, but I also think it's important — and President Biden made this point today, and Senator Collins and I also reaffirmed it — that the rest of the world, our adversaries, like Putin in Russia and President Xi in China, are arguing to the rest of the world, you know what, American democracy just doesn't work that well anymore.
I would argue this — putting points on the board in a broad bipartisan way for infrastructure, important for the economy, important for jobs, but also important in terms of echoing President Biden's message that America's leadership is back and that we can be counted on.
Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, thank you so much for joining us.
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