clearn.png
Wednesday December 8th, 2021 11:54PM

Biden seeks infrastructure deal in meeting with Hill leaders

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden met Wednesday with the four congressional leaders at the White House for the first time and said he wants to reach a compromise on an infrastructure plan, but expectations for a quick deal remain slim despite his history of working with Republicans.

This first formal Oval Office meeting for the group — and for Biden and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky — brought together those two deal-makers at a dramatically different political and economic time than in their past talks as Biden pushes his $4 trillion jobs and families proposals.

“When I ran, I said I wasn’t going to be a Democratic president, I was going to be president for all Americans,” Biden said at the start of the session.

Referring to the gap between his ambitious proposals and what Republicans say they are willing to consider, the president said: “We are going to see if we can reach some consensus on a compromise.”

Asked by a reporter how he expected to do that, Biden quipped: “Easy, just snap my fingers, it’ll happen.”

The gathering brought together Biden’s top Democratic allies, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, as well as House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy of California. Vice President Kamala Harris sat next to Biden.

While it was the first such meeting of Biden’s presidency, the setting drew a familiar White House scene of the powerful party leaders, who can make or break an administration’s legislative agenda, formally arrayed around the president. The mood can be seen as friendly or tense. The last such encounter ended with Pelosi standing to confront then-President Donald Trump.

Earlier Wednesday, McConnell had urged the White House to drop its big wish list and work with Republicans on a more modest proposal.

“Infrastructure can and should be a bipartisan issue,” McConnell said. He said he hoped the session would bring a “course correction” from the White House for a “dialogue across party lines.”

Biden, who was a longtime Delaware senator, and McConnell have traded expressions of friendship, but their ability to find political common ground seems limited. In a capital where Democrats hold control by the slimmest of margins, it’s unclear whether they actually need each other to accomplish their political goals.

Republicans have balked at the size of Biden’s infrastructure plan, which moves beyond roads and bridges to dramatically expand the social safety net with child care and other return-to-work priorities, and his idea to pay for it with tax increases on the wealthy and corporations.

McConnell has indicated a much smaller package of no more than $800 billion, funded by gas taxes and other fees on users, is within reach for Republicans.

In recent days, Biden has opened the door to compromise, saying he was willing to negotiate the size of the overall investment and the tax increases to pay for it. McConnell has made it clear they are unwilling to gut the 2017 tax cuts, which was their signature domestic accomplishment when Republicans held power.

But just days before the meeting, McConnell said his goal was simply, and essentially, to halt Biden’s agenda.

McConnell said “100% of my focus is stopping” the Biden administration, a comment that evoked his pledge early in Barack Obama’s presidency to make the Democrat a one-term president. Obama served two terms.

“I like him personally,” McConnell said later of Biden, softening his tone somewhat. “I want to do business with the president. But he needs to be a moderate.”

Biden has long showcased his relationships with Republicans and made his ability to work with the GOP central to his governing philosophy. But a growing number of Democrats believe it is wasted energy, given their view of the GOP as too often obstructionist.

Schumer said Wednesday any deal “must be big and bold to meet the changes in the world.”

Biden’s most notable dealmaking success with McConnell came in the Obama-era budget showdowns during the rise of the tea party. As vice president, Biden was a trusted emissary to Capitol Hill for Obama, who had a chilly relationship with McConnell.

But times have changed, and nearly a decade later it's an even more polarized environment.

White House aides were not surprised by McConnell’s declaration of defiance this week but believe that some common ground is possible. Public polling suggests that the infrastructure plan, much like the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief law enacted in March, is popular with voters. But the COVID-19 bill did not receive a single GOP vote.

Steve Ricchetti, a senior White House adviser, said Wednesday’s meeting is meant to “focus this conversation to where the priorities are and the space to find common ground.” From there, he said, it will become clearer in coming weeks “when there will be a real accelerated and pretty comprehensive dialogue on all of the elements.”

Biden and McConnell have so far had a relationship of necessity. What’s unclear now is whether the president will need the senator’s GOP votes or can muscle passage in the evenly split Senate where Democrats hold the majority because Harris can cast a tiebreaking vote.

Aides said Biden planned to stress that democracy itself is on trial and that the nation must prove it can take care of its own as it copes with the health and economic challenges from the pandemic.

The president has hosted a trio of key Democratic senators at the White House already this week, including moderate Democrats Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona; the White House needs to keep on board for the massive spending.

On Thursday, Biden was scheduled to meet with six Republican senators, including Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, to hear their plans for a smaller and more narrowly defined infrastructure bill.

Aides said to expect Biden to host more Republicans in the weeks ahead of a soft Memorial Day deadline the White House set for gauging how feasible a bipartisan bill may be. Missing no opportunity, Biden buttonholed Louisiana senators John Kennedy and Bill Cassidy on an airport tarmac during a visit to their home state last week.

“I made the point -- not exactly in these words -- that everybody is for infrastructure, nobody is happy with crappy,” Kennedy recalled of the conversation. “There’s a way to do this deal — if the president will limit it to infrastructure and then let’s have a frank discussion about how to pay for it.”

Biden’s response? “He listened,” Kennedy said.

___

Associated Press writer Josh Boak contributed to this report.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News
© Copyright 2021 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
House GOP ousts Trump critic Liz Cheney from top post
House Republicans have ousted Rep. Liz Cheney from her post as the chamber’s No. 3 GOP leader
12:23PM ( 10 minutes ago )
Scramble on for new fuel routes after Colonial Pipeline hack
State and federal officials are scrambling to find alternate routes to deliver gasoline in the Southeast U.S. after a hack of the nation’s largest fuel pipeline led to panic-buying that contributed to more than 1,000 gas stations running out of fuel
12:19PM ( 15 minutes ago )
The Latest: Gosar defends woman killed during Capitol riot
Republican Rep_ Paul Gosar of Arizona is defending a woman who was shot and killed by Capitol Police as she tried to break into the House chamber during the Jan_ 6 insurrection, saying she was “executed.”
12:11PM ( 22 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
The Latest: Garland says DoJ has massive data in riot probe
Attorney General Merrick Garland says the Justice Department is still in the early days of its investigation of the insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6
11:46AM ( 47 minutes ago )
Funerals held for 9 victims of Russian school attack
Relatives wept and hugged as the nine people killed in a school shooting in the Russian city of Kazan were buried
11:44AM ( 49 minutes ago )
The Latest: Police chief says pipe bombs planted before riot
The chief of police in the nation’s capital says investigators believe there was pre-planning involved when two pipe bombs were left at the headquarters of the Democratic and Republican national committees
11:36AM ( 57 minutes ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
The Latest: Britain's Johnson says virus inquiry next year
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says a public inquiry into the handling of the coronavirus pandemic will be held next year
7:57AM ( 4 hours ago )
The Latest: Germany drops testing requirement for vaccinated
The German government has agreed to let travelers who have been vaccinated or recovered from a COVID-19 infection avoid testing and quarantine
6:59AM ( 5 hours ago )
The Latest: Red Cross says virus cases exploding in Asia
The International Federation of the Red Cross says coronavirus cases have exploded in Asia in the past fortnight with over 5.9 million new infections
4:35AM ( 7 hours ago )
AP Online Congress News
House GOP ousts Trump critic Liz Cheney from top post
House Republicans have ousted Rep. Liz Cheney from her post as the chamber’s No. 3 GOP leader
12:23PM ( 10 minutes ago )
Scramble on for new fuel routes after Colonial Pipeline hack
State and federal officials are scrambling to find alternate routes to deliver gasoline in the Southeast U.S. after a hack of the nation’s largest fuel pipeline led to panic-buying that contributed to more than 1,000 gas stations running out of fuel
12:19PM ( 15 minutes ago )
The Latest: Gosar defends woman killed during Capitol riot
Republican Rep_ Paul Gosar of Arizona is defending a woman who was shot and killed by Capitol Police as she tried to break into the House chamber during the Jan_ 6 insurrection, saying she was “executed.”
12:11PM ( 23 minutes ago )
Escalating Mideast violence bears hallmarks of 2014 Gaza war
Rockets streamed out of Gaza and Israel pounded the territory with airstrikes
12:01PM ( 32 minutes ago )
Ruling paves way for longer sentence in George Floyd's death
A Minnesota judge has found aggravating factors in the death of George Floyd
11:58AM ( 35 minutes ago )