Amid speculation about their political futures, Vice President Kamala Harris and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg hit the road together Thursday to sell President Joe Biden’s infrastructure law.
Harris traveled to Charlotte, N.C., along with Buttigieg, for the latest administration event with senior officials to highlight the bipartisan infrastructure law along with local members of Congress.
“This is a critical moment for transportation and mobility in our growing region,” Rep. Alma Adams, D-N.C., said in a statement to CQ Roll Call ahead of the trip. “That’s the reason Vice President Harris and Secretary Buttigieg are visiting [Thursday]: mobility. Not only in terms of roads, bridges, buses, and rail; but also in terms of social and economic mobility.”
“A strong network of roads, rail, and pedestrian options can help move people not only to jobs, church, school, and the doctor but also into new opportunities and eventually the middle class,” Adams said.
Buttigieg, who said Adams had encouraged him to travel to her Charlotte-based 12th District, said the Queen City has a long history with transit, dating back some 134 years to a horse-drawn system.
“Leaders in Charlotte knew then what we know now — that public transit makes life better for people by increasing access to opportunity,” he said. “This is a city that has a great track record of partnering with the federal government to invest in transit.”
The scheduled joint appearance by Harris and Buttigieg, who both ran for president in 2020, did lead reporters to ask about their future political ambitions, especially if their boss were to not run again in 2024. Biden’s team has consistently said that he intends to seek a second term.
“It’s 2021,” Buttigieg said aboard Air Force Two en route to North Carolina. “And the whole point of campaigns and elections is when they go well, you get to govern. And we are squarely focused on the job at hand. I am excited to be part of a team led by the president and the vice president, and the teamwork that got us to this point is really just beginning.”
During formal remarks after a tour of the Charlotte Area Transit System’s bus garage, Buttigieg praised the role Harris played in getting the bipartisan infrastructure bill enacted.
“The vice president traveled this country, speaking to people about what an investment in jobs and infrastructure could mean for their communities,” he said. “She spent countless hours helping the president negotiate with members of Congress. She worked to make sure that clean school buses, clean water and environmental justice were included, all of which are issues that she championed in the Senate as well.”
Ahead of the Charlotte stop, the White House highlighted the $39 billion in new investments for transit systems, as well as funding to deploy zero-emission school buses that was modeled on the Clean School Bus Act that Harris had championed as a senator from California.
North Carolina has a key Senate race in 2022 to replace retiring Republican Richard M. Burr. A National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman said Thursday that Biden’s poll numbers were “cratering” in the Tar Heel State.
“Vice President Harris and Secretary Buttigieg’s visit is a reminder not only of the Administration’s ongoing failures in Washington and abroad but also at our Southern Border,” spokesman T.W. Arrighi said in a statement.
In her remarks, Harris pivoted to a sales pitch for the climate, social and economic reconciliation packed that has passed the House and is the topic of discussion in the Senate, framing it in part as an effort to bring costs down for families.
“It’s not right that families have to choose to either buy groceries or pay for health care, to either fill up their tank or pay their rent, and so our Build Back Better Act will bring down health care and housing costs also,” she said. “What we are doing with Build Back Better is saying we need to meet the needs of working families, and we must address the current and immediate needs while not neglecting the needs that are quickly becoming a crisis for us.”