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Psaki defends new infrastructure deal: ‘Compromise is not a dirty word’

President Joe Biden's infrastructure deal announced Thursday is a $953 billion plan that is the product of months of negotiation with Congress. But for many on the left, the bill does not go as far as they had hoped to tackle the country's infrastructure issues. For a view of the making of this deal from inside the West Wing, Judy Woodruff speaks with White House press secretary Jen Psaki.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And for the view from inside the West Wing, I spoke a short time ago with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.

    Jen Psaki, welcome back to the "NewsHour." Thank you for…

  • Jen Psaki, White House Press Secretary:

    Thank you, Judy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Thank you for being here.

    Why did the president agree to this? It is a lot smaller than the package he originally proposed.

  • Jen Psaki:

    Well, it is, Judy, because he believes that compromise isn't a dirty word, and that it's important to find ways to work together where there can be agreement, even when you reserve the option, as he has done, of moving alone where there isn't agreement.

    But he likes this package. And this package has a lot in it that he's excited about, because it's a historic investment in infrastructure, the largest investment in rail since the creation of Amtrak, the largest investment in public transit in 100 years, if not more. It will make sure that kids have access to clean drinking water, that broadband is expanded across the country to rural communities and lower-income communities.

    There is a lot to be excited about here.

    You also, though, heard him, Judy, make clear today that he wanted to see this package move forward in tandem with — through the — with the budget reconciliation package, which will include the American Families Plan, key priorities that are also vitally important to him.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But, in doing that, he's taking a risk, because, at this point, it's not clear you're going to get 50 Democrats on board for that so-called reconciliation big spending plan.

    And, in the meantime, you have, for example, environmental advocates who are out there saying, we were counting on President Biden to be with us on some of these environmental measures that didn't make it into this final bill.

    What do you say to them?

  • Jen Psaki:

    I'd say first that this bill has a lot that is going to help protect our climate in it. It has investments in E.V. charging stations, key tax credits. It will make our infrastructure climate-resilient. It will also rebuild and remove lead from pipes and drinking water around the country.

    He believes that good-paying union jobs can be done, can be created in a way that is good for our climate. He also made clear today, Judy, that he wants to do more and that he is going to be a climate president, continue to be, and they can rely on him.

    So, he wants more in terms of tax credits. That's something he's going to keep pushing for in this next package that's going to move forward. And he is going to keep fighting until he signs both of them and has them on his desk.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But isn't he also risking the strengthening of home care workers, which is something that he said was essential originally in this package?

  • Jen Psaki:

    It is absolutely essential. It's going to be in the reconciliation package.

    And that's something that he's going to work every single day, work his heart out to get passed and get done. As you noted, we need 50 votes. We need all of our Democrats to stand together. That's something we're going to keep working on.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    In terms of how this gets paid for, you're looking for the IRS to lean a lot harder on people who haven't been paying all their taxes. You're looking to get $100 billion.

    How do you know, why are you confident that the IRS can do this? They have been asked to do this before.

  • Jen Psaki:

    Well, we need to give them — invest in them and make sure they have the resources to do it. They're very understaffed. They're underfunded.

    And we have been — we know, from our economists and working closely with experts in this area, that if we give them additional resources and support that they need, that they can recoup funding that will help us pay for these important investments.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Jen Psaki, what is the president going to be saying to Democrats who are reluctant right now to sign on to that other, again, so-called reconciliation bill, a lot of money for his other priorities?

  • Jen Psaki:

    The president is going to say that there are key priorities here that are — shouldn't be seen through a partisan lens.

    It's important to make sure we have universal pre-K available to kids across the country, that two years of community college is something that is made possible, that we extend the child tax credit for an additional five years to make sure that we're giving family the help they need.

    These are things that the American people support, they want. There's an important discussion, negotiation that will happen among Democrats about what this final package looks like. But the president will keep fighting for the key components that were in his American Family Plan and his budget he proposed just a few months ago.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, finally, what are the prospects — do you really believe that this leads to more bipartisan agreement, or is this a one-off?

  • Jen Psaki:

    Here is to hoping, Judy.

    The president came in. He believes that the people, American people, elected him to work when you can in a bipartisan way, see where you can find common ground. That's how he approached this. That's how we ended up at this big historic day today. And he will look for opportunities to do that for priorities moving forward.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Jen Psaki, press secretary to President Biden, thank you very much.

  • Jen Psaki:

    Thank you, Judy.

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