“What they really do is identify the needs in these states and how this package could benefit” states, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Monday, adding: “There are different types of funding for infrastructure that would be worked through with Congress as the discussions proceed.”
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The new fact sheets don’t offer any estimates on how much money any state could expect to receive if the proposed infrastructure package makes it through the narrowly divided Congress to the president’s desk.
Speaking to regional reporters Monday, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said it will be up to Congress to determine how exactly each of the many pots of money will be allocated.
Some dollars likely would be doled out through existing grant programs or using formulas based on a state’s population or other factors.
Congress also is expected to allocate money directly for specific projects, reviving a process known as earmarking that could be used to entice skeptical legislators to support a bill by sending money to their home districts and states.
Though specifics of how various dollars will be distributed are yet to be determined, Buttigieg said the overall approach will be intended to be “user-friendly” for state and local officials to figure out.
“The goal is to be responsive when questions come in, and to try to make the process as simple as can be, so you don’t have to be a large enough community to have full-time federal relations experts in order to navigate any application process,” Buttigieg said.
But in order to have any funding to apply for, the Biden administration will need to combat criticism from Republicans at the proposal’s price tag and its unusually broad definition of critical infrastructure.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Monday called the infrastructure package “a motley assortment of the left’s priciest priorities,” and a bait-and-switch from what voters expect from an infrastructure package.
“Less than 6 percent of this proposal goes to roads and bridges,” he said. “It’s not remotely targeted toward what Americans think they’re getting when politicians campaign on infrastructure.”
Responding to such critiques, Buttigieg pointed to massive national projects like the transcontinental railroad or the interstate highway system, arguing that those ambitious programs also changed how Americans thought about infrastructure.
“They challenged the country to expand its definition of infrastructure from what had prevailed in the past,” Buttigieg said, arguing that broadband internet is just as critical today as those projects were.
Asked how he’s pitching the proposal to Republican lawmakers and governors, Buttigieg replied that he hasn’t needed to argue why there’s a need for more investments, emphasizing that the size of the package will ensure that every state benefits.
The Biden administration’s state-centered fact sheets were published hours ahead of a bipartisan White House meeting between Biden and a handful of lawmakers, including Republican Rep. Garret Graves of Louisiana and Democratic Rep. David Price of North Carolina.
Graves serves on the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, and Price is chairman of the Appropriations Committee’s panel on transportation spending.