President Joe Biden, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) right, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) pay respects to U.S. Capitol Police Officer William Evans, as his remains lie in honor in the U.S. Capitol rotunda on April 13, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Tom Williams | Getty Images
WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden is hosting the Democratic and Republican leaders from both houses of Congress on Wednesday at the White House, the first time in his presidency that Biden has met in person with the so-called Big 4.
On the Democratic side, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California are both scheduled to attend, while Republicans will be represented by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California.
The meeting comes amid negotiations between the White House and key members of Congress over major pieces of Biden’s legislative agenda, including his roughly $4 trillion spending plan to rebuild the nation’s crumbling infrastructure and to fund affordable child care and universal pre-K.
The first piece of the two-part proposal is the $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan, which is aimed at a broad array of infrastructure spending that spans both traditional projects like roads and more progressive efforts like expanded broadband.
The second part of Biden’s agenda is the $1.8 trillion American Families Plan, which proposes funding for four additional years of free universal education, subsidize child care for middle class families, and expand paid family leave and child tax credits.
Republicans have already balked at both the price tag and the contents of Biden’s plans.
But the purpose of Wednesday’s meeting is not to hash out disagreements, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday. Instead it will be to discuss “where we can find common agreement, where there’s an opportunity to work together moving forward.”
“There are a lot of ways to approach a meeting like this … you could spend the entire meeting talking about areas of disagreement. There’s no shortage of those. Or you could spend it seeking opportunity for common ground. And [Biden] is going to choose the latter,” said Psaki.
During his presidential campaign, Biden promised to reach across the aisle and find areas of consensus between the two parties, something he said would help to repair the deeply divided nation.
Yet Republicans say the only way Biden could hope to win bipartisan support for any part of his legislative agenda is by whittling down his infrastructure plan to less than half of its current size, and funding it not with tax hikes on corporations, as Biden proposes, but with user fees on drivers and transit riders.
As for the family and child care plan, few, if any potential areas of compromise have emerged so far.
Biden also finds himself seeking common ground with a deeply divided Republican Party, further complicating the political calculus.
Wednesday’s meeting takes place just hours after House Republicans expelled Rep. Liz Cheney, Wyo., from her position as GOP conference chair over her refusal to embrace former President Donald Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was rigged.
This is a developing story, please check back for updates.