Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg is winning over both Democratic and Republican lawmakers at the Capitol behind-the-scenes, leading some to call him the future president of the United States.
“He calls my cell phone and I have his,” Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO) told CNN. “It certainly is just nice to be able to talk to somebody and talk about that different points of view and the pros and the cons without getting into an argument and just shutting off and then starting in with name calling…. That is very refreshing.”
Buttigieg was named one of the five Biden administration officials on the “Jobs Cabinet”; that is, high-ranking officials in charge of selling President Joe Biden’s two trillion dollar infrastructure package so that Congress will pass it.
Part of this has been public. The former mayor of South Bend, Indiana has appeared on national television channels like ABC, Fox News, and MSNBC, as well as local stations across the country like Dayton, Atlanta, Milwaukee, and Miami.
And a big part of this has been behind-the-scenes, calling members of Congress to get them on-board for the bill. Several Republicans in Congress said that they have had talks with Buttigieg about the bill and expressed their concerns, like that it doesn’t focus on roads and highways and that it will cost too much. They said they left the conversations like Rep. Graves, feeling listened to.
Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL) said that he has talked to Buttigieg twice since the beginning of the Biden administration and that he thinks the bill would be different if Buttigieg were president.
“He seems to be much more willing to work with us,” Davis said.
A Senate Democratic aide said that there’s a reason everyone seems to like Buttigieg: he’s putting in the work to reach out to people.
“Pete Buttigieg ran for the Democratic nomination,” they told CNN. “Inherently, he should be somebody that the Republicans on Capitol Hill naturally dislike. He ran on a bunch of progressive Democratic priorities.”
“But he’s already put in a lot of the necessary work and now Republicans and Democrats alike – from the most progressive to the most moderate – feel like he’s someone they can work well with.”
Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) endorsed Buttigieg during his 2020 presidential run, and he’s still holding out hope, recently referring to him as the “future president of the United States” at an event.
“I was careful not to say the next, I didn’t want to pick a fight between Pete and [Vice President] Kamala [Harris],” Beyer later said.
He thinks that one of the major problems with Buttigieg’s 2020 presidential campaign was his lack of experience in federal politics, saying that his current position at the Department of Transportation is “perfect” to build credibility for a future run.
That said, many of the Republican lawmakers who spoke highly of Buttigieg said that their vote probably won’t be swayed.
“The relationship really doesn’t have a lot to do with whether I support something at the end of the day,” said Rep. Graves, referring to the infrastructure bill.
“It is about policy and it is about my district.”