January 7, 2021 3:45 PM, EST

Top Senate Democrats Hopeful About Infrastructure Agenda Amid Political Turmoil

SchumerSen. Chuck Schumer ( Al Drago/Bloomberg News)

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Lawmakers are working to shift attention from the contentious battle for the White House to legislative issues now that Congress has certified President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral college victory, and the outcomes of two Senate runoff elections in Georgia have been settled in Democrats’ favor.

Among items on that list are Biden’s multitrillion dollar infrastructure policy agenda, which would be shepherded by his choice to run the Department of Transportation, former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

Biden and Buttigieg will be working with a narrow Democratic majority in both chambers amid a tense political climate that propelled a violent crowd on Jan. 6 to temporarily overtake the U.S. Capitol while legislators were certifying Biden’s victory. Buttigieg’s predecessor in the role, Elaine Chao, on Jan. 7 announced her resignation from the post in the wake of the deadly clash between protesters and police. In a letter to DOT colleagues, Chao committed to assisting Buttigieg with the transition.

Pete Buttigieg


READ MORE: Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao Resigns

The incoming administration has signaled a desire to tackle climate change concerns in its infrastructure policy proposals, and also is expected to promote improvements across freight and commuter corridors, widespread use of renewable energy, and greater reliance on electric and autonomous vehicles.

In recent meetings with Buttigieg, Senate Democrats expressed optimism about accomplishing a big picture, transformative infrastructure agenda. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), the chamber’s incoming leader, affirmed his party’s desire for proceeding with a “big, bold infrastructure agenda that centers on jobs, equity and climate.” He also expressed confidence in clearing for Biden’s signature initiatives aimed at lifting the country’s economy, as well as shepherding Biden’s selections for cabinet posts through the nomination process.

“We discussed how my plan aims to spur a transformation in American car manufacturing and invests in a charging infrastructure across the country,” Schumer said Dec. 30 after meeting with Buttigieg. “With the coronavirus pandemic upending our economy, including areas of the transportation sector like airlines and hard-hit public transit systems, Pete and I discussed the need to continue delivering relief to workers in those industries in future COVID-19 relief legislation.”

Congress recently approved a new round of COVID-19 relief aid, which directed funds to transportation sectors.

Buttigieg also met with Delaware Sen. Tom Carper, who is soon to become chairman of the Environment and Public Works highway policy panel. Carper is a champion of Buttigieg’s nomination to lead DOT.

RELATED: Sen. Tom Carper Urges Colleagues to Confirm Pete Buttigieg

“Through his tenacity and intellect, Pete has managed to accomplish things in a matter of years that for many require decades,” Carper said in a Jan. 5 statement. “[Buttigieg] has what it takes to deliver on the promise of building back better and putting our transportation sector on a path to net-zero emissions. I urge my colleagues to quickly confirm Pete so that he can waste no time getting to work for the American people.”


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In the previous session of Congress, Carper pushed for the inclusion of climate change provisions in a committee-passed multi-year highway bill. Senate Republican leaders did not schedule floor consideration of the bill.

Buttigieg has emphasized urgency to ensure infrastructure resilience from severe-weather events. The transportation nominee also has suggested there are potential economic benefits from adopting technological advancements across commercial and passenger networks.

“Americans shouldn’t settle for less than our peers around the developed world when it comes to the infrastructure resources that we really count on,” said Buttigieg last month. “So, when I think about the opportunities ahead, I’m thinking about jobs and economic opportunity. I’m thinking about climate.”

Buttigieg was among Biden’s rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Sen. Tom Carper


Besides infrastructure policy, the next administration will take over the management of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. This would entail considering the approval of additional aid for individuals and myriad stakeholders across sectors, such as the supply chain industry.

Meanwhile, the riot in the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 led a significant number of current and former government officials to castigate President Donald Trump. Moments before the riot, the president had addressed supporters.

Schumer called for Trump’s removal from office, arguing, “What happened at the U.S. Capitol yesterday was an insurrection against the United States, incited by President Trump. This president must not hold office one day longer.”

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), his caucus’ top funding leader, said, “We must protect the Constitution and prepare for the new president. It’s the American way, and the American people deserve nothing less.”

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