President Joe Biden is set to meet with a bipartisan group of senators on Thursday at the White House to seek support for major spending to modernize an aging US infrastructure after his predecessor Donald Trump failed to tackle the matter.
The White House said Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will meet with the lawmakers to discuss what it called "the critical need" to invest in infrastructure, with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg joining the session remotely.
Biden has pledged to ask Congress this month for what he has referred to as "historic investments in infrastructure and manufacturing, innovation, research and development, and clean energy." Studies have concluded that close to half of US roads are in poor or mediocre condition and more than a third of US bridges need repair, replacement or significant rehabilitation.
Buttigieg told Reuters last week the US government needs to rebuild the transportation sector for post-pandemic times "with an eye to the future because every form of travel is evolving and the 2020s specifically, I think, will be a decade that has some of the swiftest changes and transformations that we've seen really in modern times."
While the need for US infrastructure investment is regarded as a point of bipartisan consensus, Trump and congressional leaders during his presidency failed to agree on a major bill to repair and replace aging and dangerous bridges, airports, water pipes and other projects.
Trump in 2018 unveiled an infrastructure plan that proposed spending $200 billion over 10 years to spur $1.5 trillion in largely private sector infrastructure spending, It never even got a vote in Congress. Last year, Trump's White House drafted a $1 trillion spending plan on infrastructure but the administration never publicly released it.
Funding for new infrastructure projects has been a key point of contention after Congress in recent years abandoned a decades-old policy of using fuel tax revenue to help fund infrastructure repairs. In 2019, Trump and Democratic congressional leaders agreed to a plan to spend $2 trillion over a decade - but he never proposed any new revenue source to pay for the upgrades and never made it a priority.
Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is now in charge of the US aviation system, highways, vehicles, pipelines and transit. He was due to participate in the meeting remotely due to exposure to a person who tested positive for COVID-19. Buttigieg has since tested negative.