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Biden Courts Congressional Leaders on Infrastructure, but Divisions Remain

WASHINGTON — To hear the contributors inform it, President Biden’s first-ever meeting with Republican and Democratic leaders from each homes of Congress was 90 minutes of productive dialog. It was cordial. There had been no explosions of anger.

But the agreeable tenor might barely masks the legislative actuality: The two events stay deeply divided over the president’s proposal for $2.3 trillion in spending to improve the nation’s crumbling infrastructure.

The meeting produced solely minuscule progress on Mr. Biden’s formidable efforts to speculate extra broadly within the United States than at any time in generations, underscoring the political problem for the president as he seeks to take advantage of the narrowest of majorities in Congress to revive and reshape the nation’s financial system.

“It was different than other meetings,” marveled Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the House Republican chief and a veteran of chaotic White House conferences with President Donald J. Trump. “Everybody was pleasant.”

Speaking in entrance of the West Wing shortly after leaving the Oval Office, Mr. McCarthy and Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate Republican chief, mentioned they’d agreed with Democrats on the necessity to settle on what constitutes infrastructure within the first place.

But even on that very minor level, there appeared to have been little motion.

“We first have to start with a definition of what is infrastructure,” Mr. McCarthy instructed reporters earlier than repeating Republican speaking factors about Democratic efforts to outline infrastructure too broadly. “That’s not home health. That’s roads, bridges, highways, airports, broadband.”

Republicans have balked on the president’s $2.3 trillion “American Jobs Plan,” which might vastly enhance spending on residence well being aides, faculties and broadband in addition to extra conventional infrastructure targets like roads and bridges. Republican lawmakers have mentioned that there needs to be much less spending general and that they oppose tax will increase to pay for it.

The meeting on Wednesday included Mr. McCarthy and Mr. McConnell, in addition to their Democratic counterparts, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York and Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California. Vice President Kamala Harris additionally participated.

Since taking office, the president has barely talked with Mr. McCarthy, who voted on Jan. 6 to overturn Mr. Biden’s 2020 election victory in key battleground states. Asked afterward in regards to the election, Mr. McCarthy sought to minimize the difficulty.

“I don’t think anybody is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election,” Mr. McCarthy mentioned. “I think that is all over with.”

That just isn’t true. Mr. Trump continues on a close to every day foundation to insist, opposite to truth, that the election was corrupt and stolen from him. And solely hours earlier than the dialogue on the White House on Wednesday, Mr. McCarthy himself led the cost to oust Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming from her position because the No. 3 Republican in House management as a result of she refused to drop her public criticisms of the previous president and her celebration for the election falsehoods.

The closed-door meeting on the White House was a part of Mr. Biden’s try and stay as much as his marketing campaign promise to hunt bipartisan settlement on main coverage proposals. He pushed by means of his first legislative achievement, a $1.9 trillion stimulus invoice, by utilizing a legislative maneuver that allowed it to cross with solely Democratic votes.

As the group assembled within the Oval Office, the president instructed reporters that he hoped to seek out frequent floor, a minimum of on infrastructure spending. He joked that he want to simply “snap my fingers” to attain that aim regardless of fierce Republican opposition to his plans.

“The bottom line here is we’re going to see whether we can reach some consensus on a compromise,” Mr. Biden mentioned. “We’re going to talk a lot about infrastructure.”

The Republican lawmakers mentioned that they believed the meeting was productive.

Mr. McConnell instructed reporters after the meeting that he hoped Senate committees would deal with the president’s proposals by means of the conventional legislative course of, which might enhance the probabilities of a deal. Mr. Biden is scheduled to fulfill on Thursday with Senator Shelley Moore Capito, Republican of West Virginia, who has taken on the function of lead negotiator for Senate Republicans.

Returning to the Capitol, Democratic leaders framed the meeting as a modest signal of progress.

“It took us a few steps forward,” Ms. Pelosi mentioned. Her Senate counterpart, Mr. Schumer, mentioned that the 2 events would “try hard” to get an settlement, taking the “first step” to determine potential areas of frequent curiosity.

But it’s unclear whether or not the 2 sides can agree on sufficient even to interrupt up the infrastructure plan into two payments: one narrower conventional infrastructure measure that would probably win bipartisan assist, and a bigger jobs and tax invoice that Mr. Biden would possibly attempt to push by means of Congress with solely Democrats.

The Republican leaders mentioned they remained unwilling to think about any of the tax will increase that Mr. Biden has recommended to pay for the spending.

“You won’t find any Republicans going to go raise taxes,” Mr. McCarthy mentioned, referring to Mr. Biden’s want to extend taxes on rich Americans that had been lowered within the 2017 tax invoice. “I think it’s the worst thing to do in this economy.”

He and Mr. McConnell additionally mentioned that their membership remained at odds with the president about how you can outline infrastructure spending. At one level, Mr. Biden and Democrats pressed their Republican counterparts on a selected proposal to fund an unlimited community of charging stations for electrical vehicles, but they confirmed little curiosity.

“We didn’t go through a list and say, ‘Yes on this, no on that,’” Ms. Pelosi mentioned afterward. “But that emerged as something that they might not be too fond of.”

Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris have toured the nation in current weeks arguing that the spending is important to create jobs and make sure that the financial recovery from one of many nation’s deepest recessions doesn’t lose momentum. They have defended the infrastructure proposal from criticism that it contains an excessive amount of spending on social providers packages unrelated to the normal road-rail-and-sewer definition of infrastructure.

And the variations between the 2 events are even starker for Mr. Biden’s second legislative proposal: the $1.8 trillion “American Families Plan,” which seeks to increase entry to training, scale back the price of little one care and assist ladies within the work pressure.

The meeting on Wednesday comes lower than every week after a disappointing jobs report, which confirmed solely 266,000 new jobs added in April. Republicans pointed to the information level as proof that Mr. Biden’s insurance policies had been making a labor scarcity and that his spending proposals threatened to stoke runaway inflation.

A White House statement after the meeting confused the president’s want to keep away from partisan clashes that would stop the United States from taking steps to enhance the financial system.

“The president also emphasized that whatever differences exist between the parties, the real competition is between the United States and the rest of the world, and that other countries are not waiting for us to equip our people to win in the 21st century,” the assertion mentioned.

But the Republican leaders made no secret of their intention to fiercely oppose Mr. Biden’s plans if he tries to go round them. In remarks on the Senate flooring earlier than the meeting, Mr. McConnell mentioned Democrats ought to keep in mind they’ve solely a slender majority in Congress, “not exactly a sweeping mandate for a socialist agenda.”

And in a marketing campaign textual content to supporters shortly after the meeting, Mr. McCarthy sought to boost money by saying, “I just met with Corrupt Joe Biden and he’s STILL planning to push his radical Socialist agenda onto the American people.”

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