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Biden pushes sweeping jobs plan in meeting with bipartisan group of lawmakers

The president faces stiff opposition from Republicans on Capitol Hill to enact the $2 trillion proposal.
Image: U.S. President Biden meets with members of Congress at the White House in Washington
President Joe Biden meets with a bipartisan group of members of Congress to discuss the American Jobs Plan infrastructure package in the Oval Office at the White House on April 12, 2021.Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is working to build bipartisan support for his sweeping $2 trillion American Jobs Plan and met Monday at the White House with a bipartisan group of lawmakers.

The president wants to see Congress pass the proposal, which he is calling the "American Jobs Plan," by the end of the summer and more meetings are expected in the coming weeks.

Administration officials and Cabinet members have also been in regular contact with Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, holding "dozens, and dozens of meetings and briefings" about the proposal.

In the Oval Office, Biden reassured lawmakers that his commitment was sincere.

"All kidding aside, I’m prepared to negotiate the extent of my infrastructure project as well as how we pay for it," Biden said. "I am not big on window dressing, as you've observed."

But Biden's plan, which he has been promoting as an investment in the country's infrastructure, faces an uphill battle.

Some moderate Democrats have raised objections to Biden's proposal to increase corporate taxes to pay for the bill while Republicans have rejected the president's attempt at establishing a broad definition of infrastructure to include items such as care for the elderly.

Republican Sens. Deb Fischer, of Nebraska, and Roger Wicker, of Mississippi, attended Monday's meeting, as well as Democratic Sens. Alex Padilla, of California, and Maria Cantwell, of Washington. Reps. Garret Graves, R-La., Donald Payne, D-N.J., David Price, D-N.C., and Don Young, R-Alaska, also joined.

While the Republican lawmakers invited to Monday's meeting are members of relevant committees, such as Commerce, Science, and Transportation, the group is not known for its bipartisanship. Key senators such as Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., a critical moderate swing vote, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who has expressed some willingness to work with the White House, were notably not on the list of invitees.

"Republicans are wary whether today's meeting and others like it are truly an effort on working out a bipartisan deal or if they are about window dressing that will lead to another Democrat-only reconciliation process," said an aide to Wicker ahead of the meeting.

Biden, who has emphasized that he would like to pass the bill with bipartisan support, has said that he is open to compromise on provisions like the corporate tax rate.

"It's all open to negotiation," Psaki said Monday.

Following the meeting, Wicker said the meeting wasn't contentious, but that there is still "a lot of space between us," while Price acknowledged some might be "dubious" about the parties finding a common ground.

"We don't have a great track record for bipartisan accomplishment these days," he said, "So there's a kind of burden of proof here on people who have talked that game about infrastructure for so long.”

Despite his commitments to negotiate, many Republicans are likely to meet Biden's efforts with skepticism after they say their proposed changes to the president's coronavirus relief plan were largely ignored by the White House. The Covid-19 bill passed in March without any Republican votes.

We don't have a great track record for bipartisan accomplishment these days, and even the even the relief bill, we couldn't do on a bipartisan basis, so there's a kind of burden of proof here, on, on people who have talked that game about infrastructure for so long.”

Ahead of Monday's meeting, the Senate Republican Conference sent around a memo criticizing Biden's jobs proposal as a "partisan plan to kill jobs and create slush funds on the taxpayer dime" and argued that Americans did not consider initiatives such as efforts to combat climate change and wealth inequality as infrastructure.

"The bill would need to be fundamentally redone,” Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 House Republican, said Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation." She said, "So much of it is unnecessary."