“I think many of us see a crisis in human infrastructure when a working class family can’t find good, quality, affordable child care. That’s human infrastructure,” the Vermont independent and chairman of the Senate Budget Committee told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.” “I think now is the time to begin addressing our physical infrastructure and our human infrastructure. I want to see that happen as soon as possible.”
The comments from Sanders, who has signaled his support for Biden’s proposal, come as the administration zeroes in on infrastructure as its next major legislative push. The proposal, called the American Jobs Plan, would spend heavily on rebuilding the nation’s crumbling infrastructure and shift to greener energy over the next eight years. It includes building or retrofitting more than 2 million homes or housing units, replacing every lead pipe in the country and ensuring that all Americans have access to affordable, reliable and high-speed broadband.
The President has said the proposal would modernize 20,000 miles of rundown highways, roads and main streets and 10,000 bridges and would also fix “10 of the nation’s most economically significant bridges in America that require replacement.” The plan also calls for investments in manufacturing, transportation, research and development, bolstering caregiving for aging and disabled Americans and building new public schools and upgrading existing buildings.
Sanders called Biden’s plan “a serious proposal dealing with some of the serious crises that we face,” adding that “every American understands that our infrastructure, our roads and our bridges, water systems, waste water plants, are falling apart and we can create millions of jobs rebuilding them.”
But, the senator said, Congress will take a “hard look” at the plan in an effort to see how it can address health care, the cost of prescription drugs, college affordability and student debt. “I think in an unprecedented moment, the President has given us a serious proposal. A lot more work has to be done in that regard,” he said.
Top Biden officials push for Republican support
Two of the five Cabinet secretaries Biden has assigned to serve as his messengers in working with Congress on the infrastructure proposal said Sunday that it’s the administration’s hope that the plan will have Republican support, something the President lacked when the Senate passed the latest Covid-19 relief package.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg was cautiously optimistic on the prospect of garnering bipartisan backing for the proposal in an interview with NBC, saying: “I think we can find a lot of support for all of the elements of the President’s agenda.”
But Buttigieg echoed the administration’s stance that inaction is not an option, saying that it “can’t let politics slow this down to where it doesn’t actually happen.”
And Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm avoided outright saying that Biden would move to pass his plan without Republican congressional support in an interview later on “State of the Union,” telling Tapper that it would be Biden’s preference to have GOP support, but ultimately he was elected by the American people to lead.
“However, his sincere preference, his open hand, is to Republicans to come to the table and say, ‘If you don’t like this, how would you pay for it? If you don’t like this, what would you include?'” she said.
And asked why the proposed bill has more money in it for electric cars than it does for roads and bridges, Granholm said it was also a jobs bill and the need for an electrified transportation system to reduce climate change is “highly supportive.”
The secretary added that the money also goes to things like building electric batteries in America, a market China plans to corner in the future.
CNN’s Kate Sullivan, Jasmine Wright, Jason Hoffman, Phil Mattingly and Maegan Vazquez contributed to this report.