Washington — Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said Sunday that thestill being negotiated in the Senate, as well as a larger measure that encompasses President Biden's major agenda items on child care, climate and education, is what Americans want and deserve. And she believes both pieces of legislation to the president's desk.
In an interview on CBS News' "Face the Nation," Raimondo said the group of senators working with White House aides on the $600 billion bipartisan infrastructure framework is "very close" to reaching an agreement, and said she believes talks are "in the final strokes or in the final days."
But while the Senate group is hashing out the outstanding issues on the bipartisan blueprint, Congress is also working to craft a much larger $3.5 trillion package that includes Mr. Biden's agenda items that were left out of the smaller infrastructure deal, which focuses on roads, bridges, broadband and railways.
The White House and Democratic leaders want the two pieces of legislation to move through Congress at the same time, even as the $3.5 trillion bill will be passed using a procedure called budget reconciliation that will allow it to move with only Democratic support. The bipartisan infrastructure deal, meanwhile, needs the backing of at least 10 Republicans in the Senate to be approved there.
Raimondo called the dual-track strategy for the bills — which together make up a major portion of Mr. Biden's economic agenda — "unusual and complex."
"But it's what Americans want," she said. "It's what Americans deserve."
Raimondo said the Biden administration makes "progress every day" and she feels optimistic a deal on the bipartisan framework will be reached, and both the House and Senate will pass the package.
While Congress works on crafting legislative text for both the bipartisan infrastructure deal and the $3.5 trillion plan, Mr. Biden has continued to pitch both measures to the American people, reassuring them the legislation will help create jobs and boost the economy.
Raimondo, too, said the more sweeping package, which includes Mr. Biden's plans for child care, home care and education, will help get women, in particular, back into the workforce
"The thing that I think we all really have to keep our eye on, in addition to wages, is childcare," she said. "A lot of people who work in these jobs are women, waitresses, working at a hotel. So schools have to open, childcare has to come back online, and we have to pass the president's, which provides for childcare, tax credits, investments in pre-K, investments in home care. Women are in these jobs and they're struggling to juggle between taking care of their kids and going to work."
Raimondo said she frequently hears from businesses that women are turning down promotions because of child care needs or are staying out of the workforce altogether.
"You talk about infrastructure and yes, we need bridges and roads to get to work," she said. "Women need childcare so that they can get to work and be productive and it needs to be affordable. And so I think this is it's core to our competitiveness to have a better kind of family care infrastructure in America that's affordable. That's affordable."