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Rep. Kevin Brady 'cautiously optimistic' about infrastructure talks

Rep. Kevin Brady joined Yahoo Finance to discuss President Joe Biden's infrastructure bill and where the two parties may find common ground.

Video Transcript

ADAM SHAPIRO: So it was Monday when Kevin Hassett was talking about this proposed Biden administration global minimum tax. And he said, quote, "Ain't no way that that's going to get past Congress." We invite into the stream one of the members of Congress who's going to hold the line against that, as well as potential tax increases. That is the former chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, the current ranking member Kevin Brady, the representative from Texas. Good to see you, representative.

KEVIN BRADY: Good to see you, Adam. Thanks for having me.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Before we start with taxes, I want to get to the headline about infrastructure. And I think, just very simply, do you think we'll get some kind of infrastructure compromise before the end of the year?

KEVIN BRADY: You know, I sure hope so. And I'm cautiously optimistic about it. I think the important thing is for the administration not to go its own way. Infrastructure has always been bipartisan. We just need to stay at the table to get that done. I also think it's in their best interest because, you know, very tight margins in the House and Senate. If they-- the White House insists on putting these crippling tax increases into that bill, there are a dozen or more House Democrats who hold themselves out as pro-business and moderate back home, who know they probably won't be returning if they're forced to cast their vote. So I think it's in everyone's interest to find a path forward.

SEANA SMITH: Hi, congressman. It's Seana. It's good to see you. I'm curious just to get your thoughts just on what exactly you would be willing to compromise because we heard President Biden. He blamed it on Republicans, saying that they weren't willing to add enough spending to the package. Is there an area or a number here that you would be willing to go up to?

KEVIN BRADY: Yes, so I don't have a number. I focus more on need. So we do need the roads, bridges, ports, waterway, broadband. There is a lot I think of consensus on that area, not so much on the wasteful spending, certainly not on the Green New Deal type provisions. And while we need incentives for-- I think for some of the green energy provisions, too much of that is really green subsidies for the wealthy.

So I think there is common ground there on taxes. No one has yet convinced anyone why-- what's wrong with 21%, frankly? It's made us the most competitive economy in the world. It's created a giant sucking sound of investment jobs and research back into the US. And so from that standpoint, we think there are smarter ways to fund the infrastructure.

ADAM SHAPIRO: You, as well as other leaders from the Republican Congress, sent a letter to the Biden administration. I want to read just a bit of that. It said, quote, "Enhanced unemployment benefits and public school closures in certain states are weighing down an American economy trying to rebound from COVID, from the COVID-19 pandemic. It is past time for Americans to get back to normal." You like to point out there's been unprecedented assistance from Congress. It's going to stop, isn't it, in September, or do you think that the administration is going to try and push through even more?

KEVIN BRADY: Well, they worry when the administration has already said that they want to push through more. The president's already outlined several trillion dollars more COVID and American Family sort of emergency spending bill. And that, on top of the fact that Congress has already approved, for a family of four, with both parents out of a job, approved over $109,000 in checks, unemployment, and stimulus for them, it's the problem we've got in what's been reflected in April and May is that we are seeing real problems hiring.

Not just in small businesses, but all along the production and supply chain. It's one of our biggest problems. And so there's a reason 25 states have said, we're not going to add the federal bonus. We want to return to the state unemployment levels. That'll make sure it's not-- people don't earn more at home than at work.

But here's the other thing. So the president has five months of job support under his belt. April was a disaster. May was dumbed down expectations failed to hit that. So at this point, in five months into his presidency, Joe Biden is a half a million jobs short of the jobs that President Trump added in his last five, some of those at the height of the COVID pandemic. So there's no question, these economic policies by the president is already slowing this hiring in this jobs recovery.

SEANA SMITH: And congressman, you were behind the back to work bonus proposal. I'm curious what else do you think needs to be done in order to reconnect workers then with their jobs over the coming months?

KEVIN BRADY: Yeah, and that's at the heart of all this. Look, this is-- there are a lot of good people there out in America. But they can do math. You know, they're getting paid more or sometimes as much to stay home. And so they're writing those benefits. We propose return to work bonuses, a sort of a win-win. You know, help families reconnect to their jobs, help get mainstream businesses the workforce they need.

I think a recent survey, just a few days old, show about 90% of businesses believe their local economy is being hurt because they can't hire. And I think going back to the state unemployment, which is regional and based on your wages, making sure that it's based on those actual wages, in that bonus perhaps, we can create a win-win situation for the economy and for that family.