Washington: President Joe Biden met with Congressional leaders together for the first time since taking office, but the discussion appeared to make only modest progress toward resolving disagreements on the Democrats’ proposals to spend $4 trillion on infrastructure and families, reported The New York Times.
The closed-door meeting Wednesday at the White House included Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and their counterparts in the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep Kevin McCarthy. Vice President Kamala Harris also attended.
After the 90-minute meeting, the two Republican leaders said it had been productive. But both McConnell and McCarthy said they remained unwilling to consider any of the tax increases that the President has suggested to pay for the spending. The duo also said that their membership remained at odds with the president about how to define infrastructure spending. Republicans have balked at Mr. Biden’s $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan, which would increase spending on home health aides, colleges and broadband as well as more traditional infrastructure targets like roads and bridges. And that is separate from the $1.8 trillion the administration has requested for the American Families Plan, which seeks to expand access to education, reduce the cost of child care and support women in the workforce.
“We first have to start with a definition of what is infrastructure,” McCarthy said. “That’s not home health. That’s roads, bridges, highways, airports, broadband.”
Mr. McConnell told reporters that he hoped Senate committees would handle the president’s proposals through the normal legislative process, which could increase the chances of a deal. Returning to the Capitol, Democratic leaders framed the meeting as a modest sign of progress.
“It took us a few steps forward,” Pelosi said. Schumer, said that the two parties would “try hard” to get an agreement and called the meeting a “first step.”
But both sides remain dug in on key parts of the president’s proposals, and it is unclear whether they can agree to break the infrastructure plan up into two bills: one narrower, bipartisan measure and a larger jobs and tax bill.