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Biden hosts top GOP, Democratic leaders as he seeks common ground on his big plans

(L-R) House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Vice President Kamala Harris, President Joe Biden and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi meet in the Oval Office of the White House on May 12, 2021 in Washington, DC. The administration says that President Biden is hoping to find common ground in his meeting with Congressional leaders.

Doug Mills | Pool | Getty Images

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden hosted the Democratic and Republican leaders from both houses of Congress on Wednesday at the White House, the first time in his presidency that Biden had 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 both attended, while Republicans were represented by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California. Vice President Kamala Harris also attended the meeting, which took place in the Oval Office.

“When I ran, I said I wasn’t going to be a Democratic president, I was going to be a president for all Americans. And the bottom line here is, we’re going to see whether we can reach some consensus on a compromise,” Biden said at the outset.

“We’re going to talk a lot about infrastructure today. And see if there’s any way we can reach a compromise that gets the people’s work done and is within the bounds of everyone agreeing,” he said.

Asked how he planned to find consensus, Biden quipped, “Easy, I’ll just snap my fingers and it’ll happen.”

President Joe Biden snaps his fingers as he responds to a reporters question during a meeting with congressional leaders in the Oval Office of the White House, Wednesday, May 12, 2021, in Washington.

Evan Vucci | AP

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.

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 fractured Republican Party, further complicating the political calculus.

Wednesday’s meeting took 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.

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