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Buttigieg says there's "a lot of daylight" between Biden and GOP on infrastructure deal

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Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg says the president and Republican negotiators are still far apart on a potential deal over an infrastructure bill.

Video Transcript

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JOHN DICKERSON: Good morning, and welcome to "Face the Nation." We've got a lot to get to today. But we begin by welcoming our first guest back into the studio, the first time in nearly 15 months. It's the Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg.

Good morning, Mr. Secretary. It's good to be in your company. Let's start with this infrastructure bill. Where do things stand? The president's been negotiating with the Republicans. He says he's going to keep going. Where do things stand?

PETE BUTTIGIEG: So on Friday, there was another counteroffer from the Republicans, represented, I think, about $50 billion in movement, but really did not meet the president's objectives in terms of what we need to do for a generational investment. Remember, this is not just about getting through this season or some kind of short-term stimulus. This is about making sure that America wins the future at a time when our competitors, like China, and our allies are investing much more, frankly, in infrastructure than we are. That's why it calls for such a big step.

Now, the president's going to speak again with Senator Capito, who's been a leader in the negotiations on the Republican side. They're going to speak on Monday. There are a lot of conversations going on among a lot of members of the Senate. And over on the House side on Wednesday, there's going to be a markup for a key part, a key element of infrastructure policy. So lots going on right now, but still lots of daylight, honestly, between us and our Republican friends.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me talk about that daylight. In a Senate where you need 60 votes to beat a filibuster, don't the Republicans basically have all the leverage in these negotiations?

PETE BUTTIGIEG: Well, we've got to remember that right now the American people are with us. The American people want us to act. They believe in the need to invest in not just roads and bridges, but making sure that it's more affordable to be an American, building up our care infrastructure. And the American people are with us in terms of how we want to pay for this, which is by ensuring that corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share.

So we think there is a very strong wind at our back. And we've seen a lot of Republicans certainly around the country, but also a lot of Republicans in office state their interest in doing something real on infrastructure. We just got to see if we can actually get it into enough of an overlapping consensus that we can get a bill done together, because the president strongly prefers a bipartisan approach.

JOHN DICKERSON: But he prefers a bipartisan approach, but he has no other option.

PETE BUTTIGIEG: Well, look, as our Democratic friends remind us, there is another way, but our strong preference is to do this on a bipartisan basis, especially because it's a bipartisan priority. It was a famous mayor who once said that there's no such thing as a Democratic or Republican hole in the road.

JOHN DICKERSON: Right. And everybody loves a ribbon-cutting ceremony, which is why it's-- you've got a little bit of a chance in getting those 10 Republicans. But the reason I focus on which way you can do this is because the president's getting some heat from his left, and they're saying, well, why doesn't he just go it alone? Why doesn't he just go his own way and do this with only Democratic votes, and-- because this, as you've said, is key to your view of how to spur the economy? But the fact is you can't go it alone. And if you recognize that fact, it does change the way people think about what's possible here in terms of this signature economic piece of legislation.

PETE BUTTIGIEG: Well, that's right. There are 50 Democratic senators who think for themselves. You can't simply assume that all of them are going to come on board with something unless we work through it together. And that's why there are so many Republican and Democratic senators in the conversations that we're having right now. Now I think at the end of the day, it's-- it's going to be tough for this country to understand why Republicans would filibuster a good infrastructure bill. But we want to get there in a better way than what's happened to a lot of issues that have just gotten completely stuck, especially because there is such bipartisan interest in doing something real.

JOHN DICKERSON: Do you feel like in these negotiations there comes a point where-- where people accuse the other side of not acting in good faith? Do you think Republicans are negotiating in good faith on this?

PETE BUTTIGIEG: I'll tell you, every conversation I've been part of, there has been a lot of goodwill. It's been honest. It's been above board. We have big disagreements, that's for sure, but we're very candid about them. For example on the pay-for side, they sincerely believe that the corporate tax cuts and the tax cuts on the wealthy that happened under the last administration were a good policy and an important achievement to them.

We might not agree, might not even understand it sometimes, but when we talk about these things, it's in a very straightforward fashion as we try to find where there is some overlap. It's why the president's reminded them that there are other areas that surely Republicans can agree to as well on the tax side like enforcement to at least make sure that you don't have giant corporations making billions in profits paying zero, which is part of what's happened and part of why we're struggling to pay for important things in this country.

JOHN DICKERSON: On that question of paying for it, is it that the president-- I was a little confused about whether the president has basically taken the idea of raising taxes on corporations off the table. That's still on the table?

PETE BUTTIGIEG: That's right. That's still in our plan. And remember, what we're calling for here is a 28% rate. Most of my life, it's been 35%, sometimes higher. And the American business sector's been very competitive. So we're not calling for high taxes. We're calling for a reasonable rate of 28%.

But let's acknowledge that in our plan and the president's plan, that's not one of the elements that's likely to get much Republican support, because they're so committed to those corporate tax breaks from President Trump's Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. So what's something that we might be able to agree on? Well, how about the idea that we have enough enforcement to get companies paying what at least is the sticker rate that they're responsible for and the remarkable announcement with the G7, led by this administration and Secretary Yellen, that we're going to end this race to the bottom by getting the G7 countries to agree to a global minimum tax?

JOHN DICKERSON: So the idea is corporations would pay at least 15%, and they couldn't go race to some other country to get a lower tax rate.

PETE BUTTIGIEG: Right. Because the system right now creates a real incentive to park your profits, and sometimes even your jobs, overseas.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you a question that there have been-- there was another cyber attack this week, another ransomware attack. We've seen how vulnerable, you mentioned it in the tape we played. As secretary of transportation, how much are you thinking about the threat from cyber threats? And what are you doing to counteract them?

PETE BUTTIGIEG: Yeah, It's a real concern, and we're paying close attention to it. Now in terms of securing the transportation system we have, of course, a lot of that is with Homeland Security and our partners on that side. But we're thinking a lot about how to make sure that we build up transportation that's going to be resilient in the future, as well as that the right kind of communication is happening.

Remember, transportation, like our water systems, like a lot of our power systems, quite a bit of it is in private hands or local hands. And part of our vulnerability on cybersecurity is you're only as strong as your weakest link. And so we've got to make sure there are good cyber practices all the way down to the smallest player, any individual company. Because what Colonial showed us was a cyber attack on a private company had national implications.

JOHN DICKERSON: All right, Secretary Buttigieg, thank you so much for, literally, being with us.